Stateline Story

Health Care Flares Up As New Governors Visit Washington

President Obama, Vice President Biden and several of their top Cabinet secretaries met with governors-elect Thursday (December 2) in Washington, where the new federal health care law became an immediate flashpoint.

South Carolina's Republican governor-elect, Nikki Haley, challenged Obama over health care in a "candid, personal exchange" in front of the other governors, The State newspaper reported . Haley asked Obama to repeal the legislation, a request he flatly rejected. The president, however, did offer the possibility that states could opt out of some of the law's requirements, given certain conditions.

While members of the press were ushered out of the room before the question-and-answer session between the new governors and Obama, Haley confirmed her exchange with the president, as did the White House, according to The State .

"I appreciated his openness and his willingness to spend time with us and to really listen to what our concerns were and to address our concerns," Haley later said. "It was respectful, it was a strong line of communication, and I was doing my job to protect the people of South Carolina."

Four other new governors — Democrats Dan Malloy of Connecticut, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Peter Shumlin of Vermont and independent Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — later reiterated to reporters that health care was a key focus of the state leaders' discussion with Obama. Even some Democrats, such as Oregon Governor-elect John Kitzhaber, have sought more flexibility from the administration under the new law.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most pointed exchange involving a new governor came when Florida's Rick Scott met Thursday with his own congressional delegation.

In the meeting, Democratic U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz advised Scott not to waste his time trying to repeal the new health care law, saying she considers repeal extremely unlikely. Scott, however, said he would do exactly that, according to the St. Petersburg Times, calling the legislation the biggest "job killer ever in the history of this country."