NASHVILLE (AP) – A proposal that would allow Tennessee to join an interstate compact challenging the federal health care law failed in the House on Tuesday after about 28 members were either absent or abstained on the vote.
The chamber voted 45-26 along partisan lines to approve the bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon. That was five votes short of the majority needed to pass measures in the 99-member chamber.
The legislation would have provided a waiver for each participating state to create its own health care system. Sponsors said the proposal was intended to give Tennesseans more choices concerning health care if the compact were approved by Congress.
The House had earlier approved a change to make Tennessee's participation in the compact optional. That provision was taken out in the Senate.
Senate sponsor Mae Beavers said she was "very disappointed" that the measure failed and criticized the members who left. Sixteen Republicans didn't vote and three were listed as absent.
"I think it's a shame that some House members couldn't stay long enough to finish their business and caused a bill to fail that could have benefited the citizens of Tennessee should national health care actually be enacted," said the Mt. Juliet Republican.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey told reporters at an end-of-session press conference Tuesday night that he's "disappointed we won't have that option there."
"I think you need to have all the tools in the tool box you possibly can," said the Blountville Republican.
Beavers said whether she revives her legislation depends on what action the U.S. Supreme Court takes concerning President Barack Obama's health care law.
"If we need to bring it back next year we will," she said.
Associated Press writer Lucas L. Johnson II contributed to this report.
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