Georgia Democrats and the health care dilemma

Clearly, the substance of the argument is different. But for anyone who grew up in the South during the ’50s and ’60s, the rhythm of the debate over health care has become eerily familiar.

We have John Lewis on the receiving end of invective from an angry crowd. A tortured Congress squeezes out a bill after decades of hesitation. A jubilant president signs it.

Back home, the Legislature immediately attempts a declaration of state sovereignty. The governor calls Congress’ action “a travesty,” and presses for a lawsuit to block what he declares to be an unconstitutional expansion of federal power.

And Democrats, just like in the old days, suddenly find themselves worrying about being tied too closely to a president and a ruling Washington regime.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has been eager to help. “It is imperative that current candidates for elected office publicly state their plans to either support the Obama-Pelosi legislation or fight for the people of Georgia,” the Republican governor declared, shortly after the Sunday night vote.

Perdue has loudly pressed Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democratic candidate for governor, to challenge the constitutionality of the health care law.

But so far, Baker and other Democrats haven’t risen to the bait.

Every GOP candidate in Georgia, down to your half-hearted handshaker for county land surveyor, has generated at least one press release vowing not to rest until the health care law is undone.

U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, the Marietta obstetrician, may be the exception that proves the rule. The GOP congressman confessed a liking for some parts of the legislation. “I might not fully agree with completely repealing and starting over,” he told CNN on Tuesday.

But Democrats — particularly those seeking a place on the November ballot — have been much more cautious. Many have been here before, and understand the game.

In health care, as Perdue recognizes, Republicans have an issue that could nationalize every statewide race in Georgia.

Democrats, especially those in the hunt for governor, have long understood that keeping the focus on Republican performance at the state Capitol — on water, transportation and education — is their key to a comeback.

There’s another reason Democrats have been quiet since the Sunday vote. If race is an intractable topic that changes only generationally, attitudes toward health care are far more likely to be pocketbook opinions. And changeable.

At an Atlanta fund-raiser on Monday, former Virginia governor Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, counseled Georgia candidates to wait for voters to absorb the benefits of the new health care law.

“All the bogeyman arguments the other guys created were fiction, and the American public will see that,” Kaine said in an interview.

Leading Democrats are following his advice.

Baker, the attorney general, rejected the governor’s lawsuit challenge on Wednesday. “This litigation is likely to fail and will consume significant amounts of taxpayers’ hard-earned money in the process,” he wrote in reply.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes was the most critical. “This health care bill is a failure of leadership on both sides. It’s what’s wrong with Washington and it’s what’s wrong with the state Capitol,” Barnes said. “My greatest disappointment is that the insurance companies were not regulated further — which means the special interests won.”

Perdue has said the new health care law will force states into increased Medicaid spending they can’t afford. But Barnes said that particular worry is premature.

“That doesn’t kick in until 2017. We’re furloughing teachers today. You can have an opinion over it, fine. But don’t waste political capital on it,” he said.

Like his rivals, House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter said parts of the health care law “are very much needed.” He cited the portions that permit parents to keep grown children on their policies until age 26, and an end to coverage refusals because of pre-existing conditions.

“That touches a lot of families down here,” Porter said.

The Dublin lawmaker voted against a resolution this week that would have declared Georgians immune from the reach of the federal health care law.

Efforts like that, Porter said, accomplish nothing and sour the ties that Georgia needs with Washington if it is to address its transportation woes. “When we do things like that, that tears relationships down, it hurts us in the future, and it hurts getting people in Georgia back to work,” he said.

David Poythress, the former National Guard commander, said he’ll wait for the dust to settle. But his bottom-line judgment was this: “It’s the law of the land. It’s up to the Congress and the president of the United States to make it work. And we’ll see if they make it work.”

The other two Democrats most affected by the turmoil over health care are Ken Hodges and Rob Teilhet, both candidates for attorney general. They were largely in agreement about a legal challenge to the new system.

Both dismissed it as an unnecessary expense. Hodges, who has significant Republican support, asked whether state-paid attorneys should be diverted from water-war issues or death penalty cases.

“It’s premature and nothing but political-grandstanding,” he said.

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32 comments Add your comment

Road Scholar

March 24th, 2010
6:50 pm

Gov Perdue: Why don’t you concentrate on ethics legislation, transportation funding (remember your pledge in 2002- where the hell is your funding plan), education, etc. ?

John Lloyd Scharf

March 24th, 2010
6:54 pm

AG Baker is trying to play this as civil rights legistation, yet is the government is usurping the rights of all. This has more to identify it with President Johnson’s Tonkin Gulf Resolution than the civil rights legislation.

We have been committed to a health care plan written by lobbyists on crack for a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it, passed by a Congress who did not read and exempts themselves from it, to be signed by a president who also did read it who smokes, with funding administered by the Treasurer who “for…got” pay his taxes, to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a nation in debt to be paid for by citizens who are jobless.

Sharon Zirn

March 24th, 2010
7:08 pm

The healthcare bill will bankrupt the state. Furloughs will no longer be an issue.


March 24th, 2010
7:20 pm

Are you aware that the Obama administration is going to continue working towards increasing the federal governments role in our lives? They have stated that the Federal Government “knows what’s best” for all Americans. Health Care is first, then will come a crackdown on individual rights. You will be required to buy a certain brand of car, use mandated energy items, and so on. Believe me, it’s coming. Is this socialism?


March 24th, 2010
7:34 pm

Kaine is right, let the reality of the health care bill sink in.
Armageddon tired of all these Republican fishing stories.
Don’t believe a word of it! And how could you after WMD?
Fooled once, shame on them, fooled twice, shame on us.
Fact is, health insurance for small businesses is going to get
cheaper almost immediately. That is huge.
And all of you that hate your job, but can’t quit because
you’ll lose your insurance? Now you can tell your boss to shove it!
Thanks to the Democrats, the winners who are here to help.

Glee Patrol

March 24th, 2010
7:45 pm

At the JJ dinner, all the democrats thought unity and being positive were important to the party. Gov Kaine said we need to fight the good fight and I’m proud of the democrats here. Being positive is just so important. Let’s not tear each other down!


March 24th, 2010
8:07 pm

Believe it folks — the health care bill isn’t any kind of gimmick — more than I can say for this GOP “unconstitutional” bunk. It’s going to help a whole lot of Americans. Good work ya’ll.


March 24th, 2010
8:09 pm

I think it’s interesting that Democrats are unifying and working hard to make the lives of ordinary Americans and Georgians better by spending money where it does the most good, while Republicans are posturing and trying to make political hay out of their loss by spending money on massive frivolous lawsuits. (Republican rhetoric aside, ask a constitutional scholar and you’ll find out it’s constitutional. When will they get a clue, quit chest beating, and actually try to help people instead of desperately grasping for power that is continuing to rapidly slip from their fingers to both their Left AND their Right?

Karl Childers

March 24th, 2010
8:18 pm

People just need to look at the simple things. Insurance rates will go up under this. THE CBO SAID IT. Also, this is a step towards Single Payor Health Care. Obama, Barney, and Pelosi have said it on tape.

Uncle Sam

March 24th, 2010
8:22 pm

This is one Republican who is not supporting Hodges. It he will not standup to these federal cappetbaggers he will end up in the grandstands….where the losers sit.

Sugar HillDawg

March 24th, 2010
8:30 pm

Neojournalist, you are a glimmering jewel of unvarnished IDIOCY! You set the record for Leftist talking points. It’s gonna be Armageddon for you Pinkos this November and we WILL undo this grievous blow inflicted on the American people!!


March 24th, 2010
8:33 pm

If the bill is so great, then why is it that Obama and the members that wrote the bill have exempted themselves from the legislation?


March 24th, 2010
8:39 pm

I thank Ken Hodges for his unwavering support of the healthcare legislation and President Obama. I know he has to downplay it to get some Republican votes, but he is a loyal Democrat and we all know how he feels about it.


March 24th, 2010
9:03 pm

The republicans are fear mongers and anyone who believes their lies is just plain stupid. The south is on the wrong side of this issue just like we were on the wrong side of civil rights. And, Ed, Sharon, and Sugar, your arguments were used against the civil rights legislation in the 60’s. Those ideas were wrong then and they’re wrong now. This is legislation that the rest of the first world has, and there is no reason why we can’t provide the same benefits for our citizens. You all are a bunch of ignorant, hateful bigots.


March 24th, 2010
9:05 pm

Just reading the silly comments of the mentally challenged Teabeggers has made me come to the conclusion that Jawja will remain the incompetent cesspoll it has become. You nitwits keep picking the same lame, brain dead lemmings for public office and then wonder why you’re rapidly slithering to the bottom of everything relevant. High unemployment, blame it on Obama, Obama is comin to git ma guns, ad naseum. You bottom feeders are pathetic and deserve to be in the dire straights you put yourselves in. I sure as heck don’t feel sorry for you near-do-wells. I’m angry because my federal tax dollars continue to flow to this idiotic state.

For the past 8 years you folks have had a mental midget for a gubner along with a bunch of yellow bellied legislators aho have done zero for you, but yet all you can yelp about is Obamanation. Look at you state, high unemployment, dumb students, cluelss leaders and rabid teabeggers. I really hope you silly nitwits do secede so we can stop supporting you.

President Obama is trying to do everything he can to help EVERYONE and all you chicken hawk monkeys od is complain.

It’s time to nuke this sorry ass state!!


March 24th, 2010
9:15 pm

vuduchld, right on! You hit the nail on the head. Thanks for your perceptive insight. We are only one of two states that have furloughed teachers, which speaks to our incompetent leadership. Yet we are more interested in fighting healthcare, which will help hundreds of thousands of Georgians, than we are in improving education. God help us.

Kill the Bill

March 24th, 2010
9:23 pm

Vuduchld you are free to leave at anytime. Don’t let the door hit you on your way back north.

Kill the Bill

March 24th, 2010
9:24 pm

Take Lil with you when you go.


March 24th, 2010
9:31 pm

The GA GOP can’t tout a single positive thing that they have done in this state in the past 8 years, so they have to make this an election about Washington. It’s their only chance.


March 24th, 2010
9:33 pm

Kill the bill,
There are still several countries that are libertarian. Rush spoke about Costa Rica.. whoops…universal health care. Rather than telling folks that love are country where to go, why don’t you find a place where you don’t have to pay taxes and you can keep your hard earned income.

Disgusted with Obamacare

March 24th, 2010
9:53 pm

Do you really believe this monster healthcare bill is good for America? Do you realize how many people will be added to the medicaid rolls? These are Single people – not people with dependent children. Georgia will have to cough up the extra dough to pay for this and Georgia does not have the money. Therefore, watch out – something will have to be cut and it will probably be state employees benefits or teachers and teacher benefits. You can’t rob Peter to pay Paul and that is what will happen. Think about it. This is the beginning of Obama’s socialist agenda for the country. And so many Americans have blindly bought it hook line and sinker. What will it take to wake you up? Will it be when the govt confiscates your hunting guns? Will it be when you are told there will be one vehicle allowed per family? Will it be when he sets wages for workers? Obama, Pelosi, Al Sharpton have ALL said this is the beginning of the one payer system and good ole Al said that people that voted for Obama wanted socialism. If you don’t understand socialism, here it is in a nutshell: IT DOESNT MATTER HOW HARD YOU WORK TO SUCCEED, WHATEVER YOU ACCOMPLISH WILL BE TAKEN AND DIVIDED AMONG EVERYONE ELSE. It’s like working so hard for that A in algebra, but when the final grade comes, itis a C- because they took from you and brought up the grades of those that made F’s. How would that feel? Is this the CHANGE you can believe in? You bet you will believe it then. But by then it will be too late. WAKE UP AMERICA!! READ OBAMA’S BELIEFS AND STATEMENTS. LOOK AT THE RADICALS HE HAS PLACED AROUND HIM TO ADVISE HIM. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it usually is a duck!!


March 24th, 2010
9:54 pm

Poor Georgia. If only Hartsfield were her again to save you from yourselves.


March 24th, 2010
10:05 pm

At one point Medicare was projected to cost $60 billion in 2010.

The real cost of Medicare in 2010 will be $480 billion. The government forecasters were off by eightfold.

If today’s Democrats are off my eightfold on this health care legislation, the cost of this “reform” will exceed America’s gross domestic product for an entire year.

Obama Kool-Aid drinkers avoid real discussions about economics, finances, GDP, sound tax policy, etc., because these things require logic rather than emotion.

But when the economy further declines and the U.S. looks like a second world country, how will this make you FEEEEEEEL?



March 24th, 2010
10:11 pm


Explain, in detail, how the new health care legislation will:

1. Cover 35 million additional people.
2. Reduce health insurance premiums for workers and employers [Obama said it would reduce premiums "by 3,000%].
3. Provide “free” preventive screenings–AND…
4. REDUCE the deficit by $130 billion.

I shall anxiously await your reply. Be specific and unemotional.


March 24th, 2010
10:16 pm

What does Oxendine have to say on the issue? Isn’t he Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner?

[...] be expended by an Obamacare suit, money Baker claims would be wasted.  It appears that “every GOP candidate in Georgia” is pressing hard on Obamacare, attempting to “nationalize” every statewide race [...]

honest abe was a republican

March 25th, 2010
3:16 am

i’m still in shock, our government just passed a law making me spend my money on something. Making me purchase something. i just don’t get it, it’ll cost a cool trillion dollars to insure 32 million people?? half of which are here illegally. half of the other half who don’t even want health insurance. yet, i’ve got to pay?? don’t get me wrong, the health care problem needs something done to it, i just don’t see why we couldn’t just address those who don’t have any health care who want it and let us that are happy with the situation, all 80% of us, buy across state lines if we want to. besides, that 32 million they say that don’t have it, do they get turned down at the E.R.’s?? i don’t think they do, do they? what’s next? am i going to have to purchase a certain kind of car? or house? i’ll tell you what’s next, those that are here illegally, will become legal real soon. just wait and’ll be before November, i’ll just about guarantee it.


March 25th, 2010
7:38 am

Since this health care program is the brainchild of the government, and since taxpayers are already paying for government employees’ health care, and since this “historic” program is destined to save us billions, I believe that it is the prerogative of the American people to “mandate” that all government employees, including Congress, be switched to this new medical plan. If Obama is telling us the truth, these employees should be thrilled, and look at all the money we would save!


March 25th, 2010
3:30 pm

All I see is people saying…this is going to happen and this is going to happen. Hell nobody read the bill. AND it won’t go into effect for another 4 yrs…CALM DOWN! geesh…


March 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

to olderandwiser49: I work for the government…I promise you my insurance isn’t all that. I’m done for us all switching. I have nothing to lose!


March 26th, 2010
8:30 pm

In addition to all of the known filth that permeates Ken Hodges candidacy, now add one more: he’s pro-Obamacare.


March 26th, 2010
11:52 pm

I support President Obama and the new healthcare bill. The govenor will waste millions in a frivolous lawsuuit Why? Becuase he lives in the past and support the politics of reverse. Come November you just try and take away health care for my to early 20’s children that can’t find work and hoave no health care. I am sick of the lies and moral cawardice in the Republican Party.

Govenor put your money where your mouth is: your frivolous lawsuit over health care loses, you personally pay for it. Republicans, stand up or shut up.