Tennessee Republicans really don't want their citizens to have health care:


On Tuesday night, a Tennessee Senate committee voted to deny some 280,000 state residents access to health care, rejecting a plan to expand Medicaid that would have cost the state nothing.

That doesn't mean the state's legislators don't want to have subsidized health care for themselves. They just don't think the commonfolk should have any. So when activist Damien Crisp asked state Sen. Todd Gardenhire if he'd be willing to give up his state-subsidized health care insurance, the gentleman from Chattanooga responded in a most dignified manner, as befits an elected representative: "Why don't you give it up, asshole?" (Some witnesses claim he said "I'm not giving up, asshole!" But they all agree on the "asshole" part.)

Don't clutch your pearls just yet, though, because Sen. Gardenhire has a perfectly reasonable explanation for calling a constituent an asshole:

Asked Wednesday about the exchange, Gardenhire said he was angered after one of the protesters followed him into the bathroom.

"When a guy follows you into the bathroom and starts shouting at you, he's lucky I only called him by his first name," Gardenhire said.

Well, in that case.

The state's Republican legislature has been hell-bent on stopping the implementation of "Insure Tennessee," the Medicaid expansion plan that would cover an additional 280,000 Tennesseans and cost the state precisely zero dollars. Even Republican Gov. Bill Haslam finally conceded in December that it was a good idea to take those federal dollars provided by, yes, the Affordable Care Act -- so long as he didn't have to call it Obamacare. Sure, Gov, whatever you say, it's "not Obamacare," wink.

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But noooo, the Republican-controlled legislature saw right through his euphemism and in February rejected his plan because if they allow the federal government to chip in with health insurance coverage for the people of Tennessee, something ... well, something bad. Just look at what's happened in all the other states that have expanded Medicaid, thanks to Obamacare! (They've been able to offer more of their citizens access to affordable health care. Terrible, right?) Then, on Tuesday night, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to block implementation yet again.

But freedom is safe when state legislators receive state-subsidized health care, apparently, because as the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported in February:

Six of the seven GOP senators who shot down fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to insure 280,000 low-income Tennesseans with federal dollars have their own state government-subsidized insurance through the Tennessee employees' insurance plan, records show.

Of course Gardenhire is one of them, though he claimed he never uses his taxpayer-funded health care because he has a "a very nice health care [plan]" through his day-job private employer, Morgan Stanley, where he's a senior vice president of wealth management. How nice for him. He gets access to TWO health care plans, while voting to deny any to his constituents.

He's also the state senator who in March was so offended by protesters scribbling words in chalk on the sidewalk outside his office, after he voted to deny them health care, that he went full Godwin and said, "They might as well be in Nazi Germany, using tactics like this."

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What an asshole.

[HuffPo/Chattanooga Times Free Press/Chattanooga Times Free Press again]

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