Reform v. Repeal; Mary & Co v. Mae & Co

A self-described consumer rights advocacy group held a press conference at the State Capitol Tuesday, during which its leaders called on state Sen. Mae Beavers to back off pushing one of her most cherished legislative initiatives.

Tennessee Citizen Action, a coalition of activists, progressive community organizers and union members, told reporters Tuesday they are trying to convince the Mt. Juliet Republican that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is really a very splendid, popular law that ought to be warmly embraced and even expanded, rather than unequivocally denounced as dangerous and unconstitutional.

TNCA Executive Director Mary Mancini said Beavers and other lawmakers rallying against national Democrats’ health care overhaul, like freshman GOP Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais, are “wasting time on issues that we really can’t do anything about.”

“Right now that’s not going to help the people of Tennessee who are suffering in this bad economy, who are suffering from high unemployment and are finding it difficult to feed their families because food prices are so high,” said Mancini.

However, the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee chairwoman indicated Tuesday evening that Mancini is the one “wasting time” with her attempts to convince her, Beavers, to betray core conservative constituencies and renege on key campaign promises.

“I’m running with the bill no matter what,” assured Beavers. “(Mancini) can still have national health care if she wants it.”

Beavers said her Tennessee Health Freedom Act does nothing to prohibit anyone from enrolling in government-run or private health insurance programs if they choose; it only seeks to insulate citizens against retribution from the federal government if they choose not to.

Beavers added that, in her view, supporters of the federal health care legislation passed last year  — and, in turn, present-day opponents of the effort to repeal ObamaCare — “don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“They think it’s going to be free health care for everybody. Nothing is free. Somebody’s going to have to pay for it,” said Beavers.

In a press release issued last week, Beavers said “the health care law passed by Congress last year is ‘big brother’ at his worst.”

U.S. Rep. DesJarlais, a physician from Jasper, has shown no recent signs of abandoning his promise to fight the Affordable Care Act either. Earlier this week he told WPLN radio that “people didn’t want government run health care in the nineties; they didn’t want it now.”

“So the bill needs to be repealed and then we need to go about finding common-sense reform in health care and in my opinion not necessarily replace it with a new bill,” he said.

Mancini says she understands TNCA faces an uphill battle in changing GOP minds. Nevertheless, they’re charging upward and onward, she said.

“Instead of using this as a political football, (Republicans) need to start listening to the people of Tennessee, to their constituents,” Mancini said. “Talking about repeal gets everybody fired up. It’s a big, sexy issue and it gets people talking about the repeal of this health care bill, Mae Beavers’ bill to do away with the mandate. Again, that’s not something we can do. That’s going to be decided in a higher court.”