The Republican Rift 

It's time for common-sense Republicans to stand up to the ideologues in their midst.

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Anyone who's been paying attention knows that Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey's hand-picked Senate committee voted not to allow Governor Bill Haslam's innovative Insure Tennessee proposal out of committee. Seven Republican legislators — including local lightweight champion Senator Brian Kelsey — each of whom gets per diems, paid travel expenses, and government health care for their part-time jobs — voted to keep sending Tennessee tax dollars to other states and to keep 280,000 Tennesseans from being able to purchase affordable health care.

Those seven people voted to turn down funds that would have helped keep county hospitals open all across the state. They voted to make people have to travel farther for care. They voted to make the rest of us pay for uninsured Tennesseans' medical care. They voted to force more people to face medical-related bankruptcy. They voted to let thousands suffer and die from lack of medical care.

Why? Because most GOP legislators in Tennessee are owned by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers' group that is fighting the Affordable Care Act all over the country. If a Republican dares to not sign the AFP pledge to fight "Obamacare," AFP runs ads in their communities linking them to President Obama. Oooh.

The legislators' decision is another indication of the growing rift in the GOP between the socially conservative, "shrink government," pro-gun ideologues and the business-friendly, common-sense-governing faction. The former group boasts our two local AFP toadies, Senators Mark Norris and Kelsey. The latter group includes Haslam, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, GOP members of the Shelby County Commission, and many others around the state.

Someone's going to have to lead the fight for common sense in the GOP. Haslam is the obvious choice, but there's not a lot of fire there. I never thought I'd write these words, but we need more Republicans like Commissioner Terry Roland, who isn't intimidated by out-of-state interests and who gets that foolishly turning down federal money that's already ours is going to mean a tax increase in Shelby County.

We need somebody like Montana Republican state Representative Frank Garner, a conservative who was open to hearing how "Obamacare" might or might not work in his state. AFP ran ads with his picture super-imposed over President Obama's. They called a "town meeting" in Garner's district to tell his constituents about his nefarious activities. They didn't invite Garner, but he showed up anyway. From a account of the meeting:

"I promised the people here when I ran that I would listen to you and not out-of-town special interests," Garner said to wild applause. "If every time they want me to sign a pledge card and I don't do it, they are going to rent a room and have a meeting, then this is going to get real expensive — because I'm not signing the pledge card."

Having the courage to do what's right for your constituents. What a concept.

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