Yesterday we made a mistake and named Senator Dr. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) as one of the votes against Insure Tennessee. We’ve heard from many of you to say that Senator Hensley was not on the Health Committee this week and, in fact, supports Insure Tennessee. Our sincere apologies to Senator Hensley.
The seventh Republican Senator who voted against Insure Tennessee was Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma).
But our mistake was not the only one made this week. Senator Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga stated this whopper during the committee hearing:
“Sen. Yarbro, I’ve heard you twice kind of take a slap at some of us, and I’m getting a little resentful of it. I have a very nice health care [plan] provided to me through my private employer.”
Not so. 6 of the 7 Senators who voted to kill Insure Tennessee have healthcare provided for them by the state. Sen. Gardenhire is one of them, but insisted he doesn’t use it. So, not only does Sen. Gardenhire have insurance, but while he is denying even one healthcare option for hardworking Tenneseans, he has his choice of two! Shameful.
While Tennessee’s Republican legislators have shown that they are unwilling to help hardworking Tennesseans but make sure that they get theirs, Democratic legislators across the state have their priorities straight:
“None of us wants to have it on our conscience that we denied our fellow Tennesseans affordable healthcare because of some philosophical difference.” — Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis) (WREG)
“I think we need to remove the partisanship issues from this. This is about people’s lives. At the end of the day, if we don’t have access to health care, some family members may die.” — Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) (WREG)
“The Republicans in the legislature spit in the eye of their own governor. This is the worst public policy disaster that I can remember in a decade.” — said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) (WSMV)
“I’m burdened by the thought of over 300,000 people who will continue to lack access to health insurance. It hurts my soul to think of the many Tennesseans who had such hope, who work as hard as they can everyday and still can’t afford healthcare, and who will continue to lack access to preventive care and management of chronic disease. Healthcare is not a privilege; access to it should not be determined by the size of your bank account or quality of job. However, I still remain hopeful that we will reevaluate this decision to ignore the least among us. As a Christian, as an elected official, and as a dweller of this Earth, I can do no less.” — Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis)
“It’s a sad day in Tennessee that we have a party that has majority rule, but can’t pass legislation for the hard-working people of Tennessee that need it.” — Rep. Johnny Shaw, (D-Bolivar) (Jackson Sun)
And Democrats were joined by many allies who agreed:
“It offered a practical, commonsense solution that worked for our state. Hospitals, along with community and business partners, have fought tirelessly in recent months to urge support for Insure Tennessee by state lawmakers and I am proud of our efforts.“–Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
“Governor Haslam presented us with a unique opportunity to take care of our own. We regret that some members of his own party were not willing to put politics aside and do what was fair and just for the people of Tennessee.” –Tara Shaver, interim communications director, AARP (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
An “extremely disappointed” Bobby Arnold, president of West Tennessee Healthcare, said, “We appreciate the efforts of everyone who supported Insure Tennessee and believe it would have been good for West Tennessee Healthcare and the state. West Tennessee Healthcare will continue to serve the people of rural West Tennessee.” (Jackson Sun)
It’s been quite a week. Enjoy your weekend…and let’s keep fighting for all Tennesseans!
Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party
Yesterday was a truly a low point in our state’s history.
With one vote in a senate committee, seven Republican senators made a decision to shut the door to critical healthcare for over a quarter of a million hard working Tennesseans.
The seven Republicans are: Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, Mike Bell of Riceville, Dr. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald, Brian Kelsey of Germantown, Rusty Crowe of Johnson City and Kerry Roberts of Springfield.
But those seven Republican senators didn’t act in a vacuum. The end of Insure Tennessee is a direct result in the failure of leadership by Republican leaders Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell. It was their failure to lead, their failure to have the courage to stand up to right wing extremists, and their failure to serve 6.5 million Tennesseans that lead to 7 Republican senators making the terrible decision that will devastate the lives of 250,000 Tennesseans for years to come.
Those seven Republican senators showed that they have absolutely no compassion for the 800 Tennesseans who have already died waiting for healthcare expansion.
Those seven Republican senators showed that they have absolutely no fiscal sense by rejecting the one billion dollars in federal funds that Tennessee would have already received with healthcare expansion.
Those seven Republican senator showed that Governor Haslam was wrong when he told our President that Republicans could be trusted to care for “the least of these”.
Tennessee’s Republican legislators have shown they are unwilling to put people first and that they are incapable of running our state.
Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro, who stood up for Tennesseans by voting for Insure Tennessee in the committee, pointed out the simple fact that Republicans who deny hardworking Tennesseans the healthcare they need are themselves on government funded healthcare for themselves. House Leader Craig Fitzhugh said, “It does matter who governs.” Congressman Steve Cohen said the vote was “Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick,” and Congressman Jim Cooper said, “Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of a cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”
As Democrats, we will keep fighting for all Tennesseans, even when tea party extremists celebrate Insure Tennessee’s defeat.
Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party