ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Anti-health care protesters pushed their way into Gov. Mark Dayton’s Minnesota State Capitol Office on Wednesday, as the new Democratic governor prepared to sign an executive order expanding Medicaid.
And for a while, it looked like Dayton’s first official press conference was going to take an ugly turn. But instead of forcing the protesters out, he invited them in.
Scores of anti-health care protesters mixed with Medicaid supporters in the ornate corner office, arguing back and forth.
“You Democrats!” shouted one anti-health care protester. “Karl Marx! Gimme, gimme, gimme!”
“Hey!” a Dayton supporter responded. “Respect the governor!”
Security officers removed the largest signs from some raucous demonstrators, some reading “Which Part of NObamacare Don’t You Understand?” and “Where Is It In The Constitution?”
But instead of ejecting the rowdy crowd, Dayton invited protesters to the podium to speak and several took him up on it.
“If you can show me anywhere in the Constitution where it says that Congress has the authority to legislate health care, you let me know,” said retired veteran Leon Moe of Cottage Grove.
Others, like Jay McMillan of Annandale, said churches, not government, should provide health care for the poor.
“Where is the church to help these people?” McMillan asked. “Because that’s the church’s job and duty is social causes. I don’t find in the Constitution where the government’s job is to do that.”
The executive order Dayton signed expands federal Medicaid coverage to 12,000 uninsured vulnerable adults and 83,000 other poor Minnesotans who don’t have insurance or have substandard care.
To be eligible for Medicaid, a person must live in poverty, earning about $8,000 a year or less.
One supporter said it would have saved her brother’s life.
“There will not be another sister who is forced to watch her brother desperately wait days, then weeks, then months,” said Sarah Anderson of St. Paul, whose brother died from cancer last year.
Dayton’s decision to allow protesters in his office may be a sign of an unconventional governor.
He said he did it because his office is “the people’s room.”
“This is where democracy occurs,” said Dayton, who was sworn into office Monday. “This is a public room. This belongs to the people of Minnesota.”
WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler Reports