Obamacare Fight In Governor's Race Requires Review Of 2011 Legislation April 21st, 2016 In the last few weeks, a small war has broken out between Do

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Obamacare Fight In Governor's Race Requires Review Of 2011 Legislation

April 21st, 2016

In the last few weeks, a small war has broken out between Doug Burgum and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem with regards to Stenehjem's track-record on fighting Obamacare.

First off, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem does have a good record of fighting the Federal Government - including the initial lawsuit fighting the individual mandate within Obamacare.

When it comes to the current back and forth between Burgum and Stenehjem, that debate comes down to whether Attorney General Stenehjem should have signed on to a lawsuit as a defendant against an attempt to chip away at Obamacare by getting rid of the federal tax credit subsidy for states that did not start those Obamacare Exchanges.

It was a political decision to do that, and there is a defensible argument that protecting North Dakota's Obamacare subsidies while the law is in place is a reasonable position for an elected official - even if it undermines efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare itself.

To be honest, initially I thought Burgum's attack was a bit overboard...

I spent a lot of time in 2009-10 fighting Obamacare when it was working its way through Congress so I always am interested in setting the record straight on who did what in that fight. In that effort, I found in my own records an episode on this issue that I had forgotten about, and I am sure many others did as well.

Obamacare Clip

Way back in 2011 there was something called the Healthcare Freedom Act that was defeated in that legislative session.

HCR 3014 in 2011 was introduced by Republicans Jim Kasper, Craig Headland, George Keiser, Dan Ruby, Jerry Klein, and Rich Wardner.

It was a State Constitutional Amendment to protect North Dakota from Obamacare. Period. Plain and simple.

(The following are screen shots of email blasts set out in 2011 under the North Dakota Taxpayers Association banner.)

2011 HCF 2
2011 Healthcare Freedom Act Roll Call
2011 Healthcare Freedom Email

Stenehjem's Campaign Against Healthcare Freedom

As referenced by State Representative Bill Devlin at the time, a legal opinion was being used on the House floor to convince Republicans to kill the bill.

In this opinion, Stenehjem argues that his lawsuits against the federal government are a better way to go than with legislation protecting North Dakotan.

Unfortunately, we all know where those lawsuits went.

The Paper Trail

It would be easy for a politician to make a claim against his opponent like this, fortunately because we have always focused on the Public Policy and Facts, both as the Taxpayers Association and under the Watchdog brand, we have the paper trail to back up these claims.

The following are emails disclosed by Rob Port of the SayAnythingBlog.com in 2011.

Email Evidence # 1 - State Representative Thomas Beadle directly states that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem opposed this effort to protect North Dakotans from Obamacare.

2011 HCF Email 1

Email Evidence #2 : State Representative Joe Heilman cite's Stenehjem's "supremacy clause" argument as why he voted against the Healthcare Freedom Act.

2011 HCF Email 2


Even if it could be argued that Stenehjem's actions in the Burwell case were for the benefit of the people of North Dakota, his role in killing the 2011 Healthcare Freedom Act certainly offsets any good that may have come from any of the lawsuits.

This 2011 episode must be included in any intellectually honest debate over Obamacare in North Dakota.

And keep in mind, 39 House Republicans voted in favor of HCR 3014 despite Stenehjem's legal position - just 11 short of passage in the House.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's record on Obamacare is MIXED.

There was no reason to kill the Healthcare Freedom Act on the worry that it would not survive the Supreme Court. It had just as much chance of anything else in the Supreme Court when it came to Obamacare.


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

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