Missouri voters go to the polls Tuesday for the first-in-the-nation referendum on President Obama’s health care plan. It is likely to give Republicans a chance to brag about the unpopularity of Obamacare, but the vote will be largely symbolic. Courts will eventually decide whether Missouri and other states can legally trump federal law and exempt citizens from the mandate to buy insurance. But sending a signal to Washington will be victory enough for the Republicans and Tea Party activists pushing Proposition C.
“You don’t need to worry about the courts when the people are trying to have their say,” says Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri GOP. “The people are saying this is going too far. It’s a referendum on the overreach of the Obama Administration and the liberals in Congress.” The vote is as much about “anger and frustration” at all things Washington as it is about health care, explains Representative John Diehl, a Republican from St. Louis County who was one of the chief proponents of the referendum when it passed the Missouri legislature.
Opponents of Prop C — those who support the insurance mandate — have been frustrated by the lack of a vigorous campaign to defeat it. Apart from a mass mailing by the Missouri Hospital Association, no organized effort existed until a few weeks ago when three 19-year-olds started a Facebook campaign. “I’ve had to spend about $500 out of my own pocket making signs,” lamented Caleb-Michael Files, the Subway sandwich-shop manager and full-time college student who launched the Facebook effort. He wonders why Missouri is spending money on a referendum likely to stir up an expensive court case. “The law is the law,” he says. Missouri lieutenant governor Peter Kinder is one of several state officials across the country who have already filed suit challenging the federal law. (Another of those, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, gained a small victory in his fight against the law on Monday, when a federal judge ruled that the state does indeed have standing to bring the suit.)
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