For the second straight session, the state Senate Wednesday adopted Tea Party-backed legislation purporting to upend national health care reform in Tennessee.
Democrats pointed out the bill will have no practical effect since federal law preempts state law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
“No one in this room, I don’t think, purports to say that the state of Tennessee at the border can say we’re not going to follow a United States law,” Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said.
But Republicans said their Health Freedom Act sends the message that Tennessee will resist an overreaching federal government. The vote was 21-10 with Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, joining Republicans in support.
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, said Congress overstepped its authority by mandating in the health care law that all Americans buy insurance.
“Never before in the history of this nation has the federal government mandated that we buy a particular product and that’s exactly what national health insurance does,” Beavers said. “Under this bill, Tennesseans will have a choice. With this bill, we’re going to make sure that the federal government does not overstep its bounds in Tennessee.”
Republicans defeated six Democratic amendments. All of which aimed to put the state on record as supporting various popular elements of the national health care law, including provisions barring insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and from capping lifetime benefits.
“This bill is politics, not the people’s business,” said Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga. “Like everybody here, I have mixed feelings about some of the things in the national affordable health care act. But that’s not the issue. We’re not trying to fix that. We’re not trying to do anything to help our constituents.”
“At some point in time, we’re going to have to decide when we are going to try to start solving the problems instead of just throwing stones,” Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Winchester, said.
The state House and Senate each passed a version of the legislation last session. They couldn’t reconcile the differences so neither bill became law. That was mainly because of political squabbling between the two champions — Beavers and then-Rep. Susan Lynn, another Mt. Juliet Republican who ran against Beavers in last year’s elections and lost.