The tea party has hijacked state government. Today as angry activists clogged the hallways of Legislative Plaza, giving lawmakers the stink eye and generally acting out, a House subcommittee passed, not one, but four measures purporting to overturn national health care reform.
None of these proposals would actually accomplish anything because all of them are obviously unconstitutional or silly or both. Two of them are identical--both bills that supposedly would nullify the law's mandate that all Americans buy insurance. There are two of these bills because their respective sponsors, Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers, are running against each other in August's primary and anxious to take sole credit for this monumental achievement. Two other measures are state constitutional amendments proposed by Lynn, one to ban the individual mandate and the other to decree that the free enterprise system will live forever in Tennessee. They all passed by voice votes to loud cheers from tea partiers.
Only Democratic Reps. Jimmy Naifeh and Joanne Favors raised any objections. As Favors spoke, tea partiers booed and jeered. "You lie!" one yelled. During the meeting, the subcommittee's chairman, Charles Curtiss, admonished tea partiers twice to stay quiet and threatened to eject them from the hearing room.
"I cannot understand how any legislator could come here ... and not be supportive of citizens having access to health care," Favors said. "If it has to be that it is a requirement, then so be it. That should not be something to get people all riled up about. Nobody is going to lose their rights."
House Speaker Kent Williams made a rare appearance at the meeting to swear his allegiance to the cause of overturning health care for all. Not to be outdone in the shameless grandstanding department, Rep. Eric Swafford went on a rant in which he raised the specter of Big Brother:
"I believe there's a difference in health care reform and telling citizens exactly what they're going to buy and when they're going to buy it and Big Brother by far overstepping his bounds. This is simply steps to protect the citizens of Tennessee."