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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate President Gaetz seeks clarification on nullification



Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the subject of a Times column on Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, issued a statement Tuesday after saying his views had been framed incorrectly.

"The law is the law," Gaetz said forcefully in a Times/Herald pre-session interview in his office last Thursday, soon after Gov. Rick Scott publicly endorsed a three-year Medicaid expansion. It's a highly contentious issue in which Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have not found common ground.

Gaetz was discussing Obamacare. He felt the column left the impression that Gaetz called Medicaid expansion the law of the land, which he didn't say. (The Times column was clarified online).

In his statement, Gaetz said: “While PPACA/Obamacare has been upheld by the Supreme Court and is the law, the decision whether to expand Medicaid is a state decision. I have not yet made a personal decision regarding how I will vote on Medicaid expansion and will not do so until the Senate PPACA Committee has completed its work.  There will be honest differences of opinion about Medicaid expansion.  Any suggestion or inference that opposing in principle the Medicaid expansion portion of PPACA is akin to the attempt by state officials to formally nullify school integration in the 1950’s is wrong and was never stated or intended by anyone on either side of the issue.”

But it was Gaetz -- not the Times -- who directly drew the analogy between Obamacare and school integration.

"The law's the law -- right up there, framed," Gaetz said, pointing to a framed display on his wall of Florida's notorious 1957 "interposition" resolution in which the Legislature sought to block school integration ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court through an action known as nullification.

In 1957, Gov. LeRoy Collins denounced the action, and Gaetz admired Collins' stand, considered courageous at the time. Gaetz said Tuesday the analogy between Obamacare and school dedegregation prompted some people to complain, inaccurately, that he believes that opposition to Medicaid expansion is racist.

Here's a transcript of the part of the Times/Herald interview where Gaetz discussed Scott's support for Medicaid expansion: "Now, then, you ask the question: Within the flexibility that we have under PPACA, what should we do and what would be the consequences? Now that's a legitimate ground for real debate. But this governor is not -- you know, I disagree with him on some things, I didn't support him when he ran for governor, I supported Bill McCollum -- but I think this governor's done a very good job. I'm for Rick Scott for re-election. I believe he's doing what a good business leader does, and that is his tactics and his strategies have to be lashed to the realities he faces now, and the realities he faces as he looks forward, not backward."


[Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:43am]


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