By DAVE MONTGOMERY
AUSTIN ó Gov. Rick Perry, raising the specter of a showdown with the Obama administration, suggested Thursday that he would consider invoking statesí rights protections under the 10th Amendment to resist the presidentís healthcare plan, which he said would be "disastrous" for Texas.
Interviewed by conservative talk show host Mark Davis of Dallasí WBAP/820 AM, Perry said his first hope is that Congress will defeat the plan, which both Perry and Davis described as "Obama Care." But should it pass, Perry predicted that Texas and a "number" of states might resist the federal health mandate.
"I think youíll hear states and governors standing up and saying 'noí to this type of encroachment on the states with their healthcare," Perry said. "So my hope is that we never have to have that stand-up. But Iím certainly willing and ready for the fight if this administration continues to try to force their very expansive government philosophy down our collective throats."
Perry, the stateís longest-serving governor, has made defiance of Washington a hallmark of his state administration as well as his emerging re-election campaign against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2010 Republican primary. Earlier this year, Perry refused $555 million in federal unemployment stimulus money, saying it would subject Texas to long-term costs after the federal dollars ended.
Interviewed after returning from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, Perry spoke out against President Barack Obamaís healthcare package less than 24 hours after the president used a prime-time news conference Wednesday night to try to sell the massive legislative package to Congress and the public.
'Not the solutioní
"It really is a state issue, and if there was ever an argument for the 10th Amendment and for letting the states find a solution to their problems, this may be at the top of the class," Perry said. "A government-run healthcare system is financially unstable. Itís not the solution."
Perry heartily backed an unsuccessful resolution in this yearís legislative session that would have affirmed the belief that Texas has sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government.
In expressing "unwavering support" for the 10th Amendment resolution by state Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, Perry said "federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens and its interference with the affairs of our state."
Returning to the "letter and spirit" of the 10th Amendment, he said in April, "will free our state from undue regulations and ultimately strengthen our union."
Perry, in his on-air interview Thursday with Davis, did not specify how he might use the 10th Amendment in opposing the Obama health plan. His spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said that the governorís first goal is to defeat the plan in Congress and that any discussion of options beyond that would be "hypothetical."
"I donít think itís surprising that the governor is taking a stand against it," said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based research organization that supports the House version of Obamaís plan. "Unfortunately, the national dialogue on health reform has been extraordinarily partisan and polarized."
The White House Media Affairs Office, asked to comment on Perryís statements, did not have an immediate response. In his remarks to the nation Wednesday, Obama restated his midsummer deadline for passage of the bill in Congress, saying it is urgently needed to help families "that are being clobbered by healthcare costs."
High stakes in Texas
Texas has a higher percentage of uninsured people than any other state, with 1 in 4 Texans lacking health coverage. Dunkelberg, whose organization supports policies to help low- and modest-income Texans, said the House version would create a "predictable and comprehensive benefits package" for thousands of struggling middle-income Texans.
Former Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth of Burleson, a senior fellow for healthcare at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, echoed Perryís assertion that the Obama plan is the wrong approach and could have disastrous financial consequences for Texas.
Under the Senate version of the bill, she said, an expansion of the joint federal-state Medicaid program for the poor could cost Texas $4 billion a year.
"There are good solutions" to the countryís healthcare problems, Wohlgemuth said. "This isnít it."
Perry said the plan is another example of the Obama administrationís "massive takeover of the private-sector economy."
"I hope our leaders will look for solutions that donít dig our country further into debt," he said.
Perry called on Texans in the House and Senate to oppose the plan. "I canít imagine that anyone from Texas who cares about this state would vote for Obama Care. I donít care whether youíre Democrat or Republican," he said.
Of those Texans who might consider supporting the plan, he said: "This may sound a little bit harsh, but they might ought to consider representing some other state because theyíre sure not representing Texas."