The Tea Party Grinds Down Health Care Reform in the States

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 31 2011 9:10 AM

The Tea Party Grinds Down Health Care Reform in the States

Sarah Kliff's story about state efforts to make it tougher to implement the Affordable Care Act is a must read. No one else, really, has been writing about what new Republican legislators and majorities are doing to prevent the formation of state exchanges -- a Republican compromise idea, remember -- and punt that responsibility over to the federal government.

"They’ve basically handed off the health exchange to the federal government," Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen, a Democrat , says of the tea party legislators who have blocked two consecutive exchange bills that she supported.

Montana state Sen. Jason Priest, a Republican who ran on a tea party platform, has emerged as Lindeen’s main opponent. He’s introduced legislation both to compel Lindeen to send a health exchange grant back to Washington and to force Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock to join a health reform lawsuit.


The tea party activism has pitted Republican against Republican in Georgia, where the Georgia Tea Party Patriots scuttled Gov. Nathan Deal’s attempt to set up a health exchange. When exchange legislation hit his desk earlier this month, tea party activists logged hundreds of thousands of calls to Deal and local legislators in opposition.

"We took them off-guard," says Debbie Dooley, a coordinator with the Georgia Tea Party Patriots. "Some of the Republican leadership in our state House was pushing this bill and our rallying cry was 'kill the bill.’"

What I can't figure out just yet is how this benefits conservatives in the long run. In some ways it's like the strategy ACORN is accused of -- making it tougher for this to get implemented, so it collapses. But it doesn't prevent the federal government from just shrugging and creating exchanges.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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