JEFFERSON CITY — While the U.S. Congress has been ensnared in debate over a bill to reform the national health care system, Missouri Republicans told supporters at a state sovereignty rally that they will advance legislation that asserts the state's resistance to the federal legislature's plan for reform.
A Missouri Senate resolution, which was placed on a Senate calendar for debate on the floor Wednesday, would present to voters an amendment that would seek to keep them from being compelled to participate in a national health care system.
Speaking before a rally of supporters of the resolution, held in the Capitol, Senate Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said the bill could reach the floor for debate as early as next week.
On Tuesday, a matching resolution in the Missouri House easily passed with nearly two-thirds of the vote. The resolution, proposed by Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, gained the support of 25 House Democrats.
The Senate version of the resolution was co-sponsored by all but one of the Senate Republicans: President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph. In a flier released by several conservative grassroots groups to attract attendees to the rally, Shields was named as an obstacle to allowing the bill to come before the full Senate for debate. It stated that supporters will not let "one man stand in the way" of the resolution.
Shields said he worked with the sponsor, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, to alter some of the language of the resolution in order to clarify it. He agreed that the issue of health care reform should be left to the states instead of "one-size-fits-all" legislation from the federal level.
"We really should depend on the states to have solutions," Shields said. "What could be a solution in, for example, Kansas might not be the right solution for Missouri, and what works for Missouri doesn't work for Illinois."
Shields said he thinks the resolution could see debate on the floor but said he was "hesitant" to predict if it would pass the upper chamber.
Cunningham said she was "optimistic" that the resolution would pass and the issue would be decided by a "vote of the people."
Sen. Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City, said the resolution represents "backlash" and "dissatisfaction" with the current administration in the White House. She said if the state chose not to be part of a national health care plan, the effects could be "devastating" for Missourians. Wilson said she could not speak for her fellow Senate Democrats but said "at the moment" she would not support the resolution if it came to the Senate floor.
Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate 23-11.
During the rally Wednesday, attendees visited the offices of legislators, delivering messages rolled up in large syringes that either thanked individual lawmakers for their support of the resolutions or asked opponents to get on board.
Some rally attendees said the issue of national health care reform transcends proposed federal mandates and cuts deeper to the issue of states' rights in the face of federal authority.
Linda Shonk of Wright City said the federal government was seeking a "power grab" with health care legislation. She said she plans to go on vacation this year and will avoid states that have adopted the national health care plan "like the plague."
"Those people who are trying to force this health care on us to get more power in the government and less freedom for me don't deserve my patronage," Shonk said.
Marcus Bayliss of Warrenton said attendees to the rally are "realizing" that they are "losing their grip on the country." He said "some things" should be done to help expand health care access but reform should be made at the state level.