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With abortion off the table, Democratic senator switches position on Virginia health bill

Rosalind Helderman

Democratic Sen. Chuck Colgan (Prince William), one of five Democrats who supported a state law prohibiting an individual health insurance mandate in Virginia,says that if the Senate were voting today, he likely would vote against the measure.

Colgan, who opposes abortion, said at the time that he supported the Virginia bill as a way to oppose federal health care reform, which he believed then would lead to federal funding for abortion. But Colgan said he has been satisfied by the executive order barring federal funding for abortion signed by President Obama this week and that he no longer has any abortion concerns with the federal bill.

"At the time, it was a good vote. But If abortion had been removed, I would have voted differently," Colgan said.

Colgan said he remains troubled by a government requirement that inviduals purchase health care. But he said he is uncertain about the issue, and had not foreseen how significant the passage of Virginia law would be.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) has challenged the constitutionality of the federal measure, arguing the collision between Virginia's law and the federal law gives the state unique standing to sue.

"I didn't really give it that much thought at all," Colgan said.

At a ceremonial bill signing for the measures this week, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) praised the General Assembly for its bipartisan support for the measure. The five Democratic senate votes were key to the bill's survival in the Democratic-led chamber.

"The Act was passed with bipartisan support, in sharp contrast to the narrow straight line partisan vote that enacted the federal health care bill on Sunday night. Virginia's Healthcare Freedom Act received the votes of leading Democratic Senators, as well as the Democratic House Minority Leader," McDonnell said in a statement.

Indeed, Colgan is chairman of the Senate's powerful finance committee. Also supporting the bill were Sen. Edd Houck (Spotsylvania), chairman of the education and health committee, and House Minority Leader Del. Ward Armstrong (Henry).

Democrats who voted "yes" have now come under fire from the some members of their own party. And the "unofficial blog" of the House Republican caucus questioned whether Del. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) and her husband, Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director David Mills, were living in a "divided house" because she cast a vote in favor of the bill.

Not at all, McClellan said in an interview. She noted she voted against various versions of the anti-mandate bill nine different times, opposing it in subcommittee, committee and on the floor of the House. She said she took one positive vote--to accept Senate amendments to improve a bill she opposed. But she denied supporting the measure.

"I question whether it's even constitutional for a state legislature to in effect declare federal law null and void," she said. "It's not our role--it's the court's role. It was an anti-Obama, anti-federal health care political move, which I didn't think was appropriate."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 26, 2010; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Viginia has it right and most of the states would do well to follow the example. States need to stand up for the interests of their residents and block any requirement to buy healthcare, along with the penalties and taxes that go with it. Even with the executive order everyone should be able to see the problems that have come with a closed-eye, top-down, we-know-better management style.

Those that supported the federal healthcare bill are signaling just the beginning of a designed culture for government dependence and fiscal irresponsibility.

The stakes are too high and too many for us to continue on this path.

Kurt Riesenberg

Posted by: krtriesen1 | March 26, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Interposition died with the ascent of the Jefferson; nullification died with the assent of Andrew Jackson; secession died with the end of the civil war!

Despite the best efforts of Virginia Republicans to demonstrate otherwise, they are not only on the wrong side of history but they also on the wrong side of the constitution. The Supreme Court will not risk another Bush v. Gore travesty!

They need to stop yearning for the past; it is past!

Posted by: TomPaine2 | March 27, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

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