The issue of federal health-care legislation — which, as we documented in last week's Flyer cover story, has preoccupied members of the Tennessee legislature — is even now encountering further would-be obstacles in the General Assembly. On Monday, the state House voted 66-29 to express its opposition to the health-care act recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.
Styled as a "non-binding resolution," the measure, brought by state representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), will have no effect whatsoever on the fact or inevitability of the act's implementation. Meanwhile, several other anti-health-care bills sponsored by Lynn or her opponent in this year's election for a state Senate seat, incumbent Republican senator Mae Beavers, also of Mt. Juliet, are wending their way through committee and will doubtless find their way to the floor.
All this despite a clear, unambiguous statement last week from state attorney general Robert Cooper Jr. that these legislative measures, insofar as they aspire to reverse federal action, are manifestly unconstitutional. We imagine that the sponsors of the Tennessee bills, as well as those members of the House and Senate who vote for them, are fully aware of the fact. What's happening in the legislature is political posturing — nothing less, nothing more — and much of it, particularly with regard to Lynn's and Beavers' competitive bills, is simply attributable to the ad hoc improvisations of ongoing political races.
We sympathize with a remark uttered during debate on the House floor by state representative Joe McCord (R-Maryville): "We sound like we're in a coffeehouse discussing national politics. We ought to be discussing our own problems."
And we especially like the response by a Shelby County Republican House member, Curry Todd of Collierville, who called the proceedings "totally asinine."
Indeed, they were — and are. What troubles us is that the state House bill passed by a margin of 66-29 in a body that is only barely under Republican control. In other words, the scofflaw attitude in Tennessee runs well across partisan lines.
Under the circumstances, we take comfort where we can, as in the recantation offered in Memphis Monday by Chattanooga congressman Zach Wamp, currently a candidate for governor in the state Republican primary.
Asked about his well-publicized statement that, in opposition to the implementation of the health-care bill, he would meet federal officials "at the state line," Wamp walked that statement back, right over the border. His statement had been only "proverbial" or "theoretical," he said. Metaphorical? "Yes, thank you," he said. Not literal, in any case. "Fighting may be in a court of law, fighting may be at the ballot box ... but I think these things are worth fighting for."
Fair enough, and, even though Wamp said what he said in defense of the highly questionable "state sovereignty" movement, he drew a clear rhetorical line this side of the old segregationist "states' rights" formula. He is entitled, if he wants to, to complain about "a billion-dollar mandate that [the state] can't afford" whether that's an accurate appraisal or not. And so are fellow GOP gubernatorial candidates Bill Haslam and Ron Ramsey, who also oppose the bill. So, too, are those 66 errant House members, so long as they, too, stop this side of interposition.