Virginia Republicans stall work on health care law

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Photo - Demonstrators pray outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2012, before a landmark decision on health care.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Demonstrators pray outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2012, before a landmark decision on health care. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld President Obama's health care reforms, Virginia Republicans said they have no plans to begin implementing those reforms until after the fall elections, challenging Democrats on the issue in a critical battleground state.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has no plans to order a special session that would allow the legislature to begin bringing the state into compliance with the federal law.

And House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Fredericksburg, told The Washington Examiner that the Republican-controlled General Assembly lacks the two-thirds majority needed to call such a session.

Virginia Republicans are waiting to see if their party takes control of the U.S. Senate and White House this November, putting them in a position to repeal Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"The overriding thing is, it's going to cost an incredible amount of time and effort [to have a special session]," Howell said. "We can undo the 'unaffordable care act.' If we do, it's all for not."

That riled Democrats, who are demanding that McDonnell call the special session.

"I think that's derelict of duty," Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico.

"This 'let's see who's in power' game is irresponsible and partisan politics," McEachin said. "It puts us in risk of running afoul of the law."

The federal law requires virtually every American to buy health insurance and it requires states to create insurance exchanges that would ensure that private health care coverage is available to everyone. If a state fails to create an exchange by Jan. 1, the federal government could step in and create it.

Maryland's General Assembly already created an insurance exchange. But Virginia officials, who fought the federal health reforms in court, repeatedly killed legislative proposals to create one.

"My bill was one of six bipartisan proposals held hostage to litigation challenging the Affordable Care Act," said Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond. "Now we have lost precious time, and federal resources."

Some Republican governors, including Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, insist they won't begin implementing the federal health care reforms. McDonnell, the head of the Republican Governors Association, has been more reserved.

"We will do what we think is right for the citizens of Virginia," McDonnell said, "But realizing at the same time that I will do everything I can to change the leadership of this country, to help win Virginia, so that these kinds of gargantuan tax increases and expansions of the federal government and the trampling of the liberty of the citizens of Virginia doesn't stand."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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