Chris Christie's healthcare veto not worthy of the fleece
December 10, 2012By Rob Tornoe for NewsWorks
This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.
After Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shore, Chris Christie surprised many by setting aside partisan differences in order to work with President Obama during our time of need. Donning a personalized fleece, Christie not only worked with Obama, he praised the President for his leadership and quick decision making, much to the chagrin of members of his own party.
He should have never taken off that fleece.
Last week, Christie vetoed a bill that would have begun implementation of a state-based healthcare marketplace that complied with President Obama's much-maligned Affordable Health Care Act, or 'Obamacare," as it's come to be know.
This is the second time Christie has vetoed setting up the exchange, and each time, he changes his reasons. He vetoed the first bill in order to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Obamacare, which ruled it Constitutional.
Then, Christie wanted to wait to see if his buddy Mitt Romney would win the election, and follow-through on this promise to dismantle the entire program. Now, with all other issues settled, Christie blames the veto on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which he claims has yet to answer dozens of questions about the marketplace, including its cost. Officials disagree, claiming the information is already out there, and point to $8.7 million in grants New Jersey has already collected in order to set up the exchange.
Perhaps Christie didn't have time to read the material in-between TV appearances. What I found particularly amusing was while Christie was vetoing the health care exchange over the cost, he was glad-handing Obama and members of FEMA in Washington asking for $50 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief. I guess Republicans don't have to worry about bootstrap pulling when Mother Nature is responsible.
I get why Christie is doing it - he needs to re-establish some conservative street cred if he hopes on making it through the Republican Presidential primaries that seem to lean towards far-right knuckle-draggers like Rick Santorum. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist's political career as a Republican was undone with a simple Obama hug during his unsuccessful Senate run in 2010.
Christie went out of his way to commend Obama publically, a big no-no in today's GOP. The implementation of state-based health care exchanges has become nearly as partisan as the fight over Obamacare itself. Christie has fallen in line with other Republican Governors who have steered clear of setting up their own exchanges.
So much for the fleece-based bipartisanship that skyrocketed his popularity upwards of 70 percent in recent months. In terms of policy, Christie's veto is completely symbolic. So he won't be the one to set up the exchange.
Instead, he'll force New Jerseyans to seek healthcare solutions from the federal government, who will come in and set up their own exchange here anyway. Christie has decided not to protect state rights or effective consumer rights, both of which are strong Republican values, in order to fall in line with conservatives.
Such is the logic of today's GOP. "Financing the building and implementation of a State-based Exchange would be an extraordinarily costly endeavor," Christie said in his press release. In a way, he's admitting that the federal government is actually more efficient than the state, at least as far as health care is concerned.
He's also conveniently forgetting about the cost of allowing so many New Jerseyans to remain uninsured, forcing them into the emergency room where you and I are largely on the hook for the bill.
The Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is Constitutional. Christie himself has admitted that Obamacare is now the "law of the land." These exchanges will be set up in all 50 states by 2014, whether Republican Governors like it or not.
The only choice they have is between setting them up themselves or relinquishing control to Washington, something rhetorically they despise. All Christie accomplished with his veto was to alienate voters and give away the state's ability to call the shots. It's a move not worthy of the fleece.
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.