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GOP calls health-care plan 'an assault on sovereignty'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 10, 2010 - Hours before President Barack Obama was to appear at St. Charles High School, opponents of his health-care plan had already galvanized those who say the Show-Me State isn't buying what the president will be selling.

About 2,000 people packed the grand ballroom at the St. Charles Convention Center to hear U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country, and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder lead a cadre of Republicans who condemned the Democratic-backed health-care bill now in Congress.

Kinder asserted that the contest was now "Pelosi vs. the people," referring to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The crowd stood and cheered when Kinder said his main question to the president is: "What part of 'no' don't you understand on this health-care bill?"

Kinder contended that the bill would be "shrinking our freedom and an assault on our sovereignty," as well as "wrecking Missouri's budget."

Similar comments were made by various area legislators, including state Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who ignited a standing ovation over her efforts to get a constitutional amendment on this fall's ballot. "Our constitutional amendmendment will shield Missouri from federal mandates," she said.

Cunningham explained that it was unfair, in her view, to require businesses or individuals to purchase health insurance, as stipulated in the Democratic proposals. (Subsidies would be provided to small businesses and some low-income people.)

The crowd roared when state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, called the bill "offensive to our democracy." The cheers were deafening when he declared, "In November, heads are going to roll."

Akin credited divine intervention with the January election of Scott Brown, R-Mass., which deprived Senate Democrats of the 60-seat majority needed to block filibusters. Akin said he hoped God would intervene again to prevent a health care bill from getting through Congress.

Joining Akin via video from Washington were several fellow House Republicans, including John Shimkus of Collinsville and Mike Pence of Indiana.

The hour-long forum ended with the audience singing "God Bless America."

Those in the audience included Cathy O'Neal of O'Fallon who called the health-care bill "the most anti-American thing we've seen in a long time."

The chief arguments against the bill made at the forum were also made earlier during a conference call featuring U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond and U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, a Republican seeking to succeed the retiring Bond. Bond and Blunt both said that the bill was too costly and would kill jobs.

They also outlined various Republican proposals that they said would reduce health-care costs, such as limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines.

States currently control which insurance companies can operate in their states and what coverage is offered. In response to a reporter's question, Bond and Blunt said that federal changes could be made that would still allow for state oversight.

Blunt said the key Republican approach was to "create a bigger marketplace."

At the same time, Bond and Blunt denied Democratic assertions that they were opposed to any changes at all.  "We are not advocates of the status quo," Blunt said. "There is not enough competition in the system now."

Bond and Blunt also disputed Obama's contention that the GOP did little to improve the nation's health care system during the years when Republicans controlled the U.S. House and Senate. Blunt said that House Republicans won passage of many proposals during their 12 years in power that he believes would have improved health care.

Then, as now, the roadblock was the U.S. Senate, said Blunt, which killed most Republican health care bills. He added that Republicans never enjoyed the  Senate majority that the Democrats now hold. "There have never been 60 Republican senators, 59, 58 or 57,'' Blunt said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, whose district includes western St. Charles County, sent out a statement that underscored the same points.  He declared, “The majority of people in the Show-Me State clearly oppose a plan that spends money we don’t have, raises taxes, rations care and slashes care to our most vulnerable citizens. Missourians will not tolerate being ignored while the government decides how best to care for our families...."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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