DENVER A Republican leader pushed back Tuesday at tea party critics who accused her of selling out the opposition to President Barack Obamas health care bill.
A group called Liberty Watch Colorado has targeted House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, for sponsoring Senate Bill 200, which creates a health insurance exchange to help employees and businesses find health coverage.
Stephens, a former Focus on the Family executive, has a reputation as one of the Legislatures most conservative members, and she said Tuesday that her critics from the extreme part of the tea party movement do not understand the issue and the need to compromise with Democrats.
Many people didnt read the bill. They saw the word exchange and jumped to the idea that its Obamacare, Stephens said.
Liberty Watch Director Nancy Rumfelt issued a press release to call SB 200 a key component of Obamacare in Colorado, so we believe it is bad medicine for our state.
The bill will have its first hearing today in a Senate committee.
Liberty Watch scheduled a news conference Tuesday to decry the bill, but the groups leaders did not show up and did not return messages.
The national health insurance law Obama signed called for states to set up exchanges, but Stephens said she has been working on the idea since before Congress acted.
The exchange will be a website that functions like Expedia or Travelocity, allowing consumers to compare and purchase competing plans, Stephens said.
SB 200 creates a board that will craft the details of Colorados health insurance exchange. Its Senate sponsor is a Democrat, Betty Boyd of Lakewood, and the bill has won wide support from both liberal consumer groups and the conservative National Federation for Independent Business.
Stephens said she remains a committed opponent of Obamacare, but conservative bloggers have taken to calling her bill Amycare.
She halfway embraced the term Tuesday.
Im amused by it, but my response is Amycares about the free market. Amycares about small business, Stephens said.
Stephens and other Republicans are sponsoring another bill that would invalidate the federal law in Colorado by joining a multistate compact on health care that, under one legal theory, would supersede the law Congress passed. That bills first hearing is scheduled for April 19.
It wasnt the first time that criticism from the right has plagued the new Republican majority in the state House this year.
Two weeks ago, anti-abortion activists got Republican sponsors to kill a bipartisan bill that would have increased the punishment for killing a pregnant woman. The activists objected because the bill specifically excluded the term personhood, which was at the center of two unsuccessful ballot initiatives to ban abortion.
Reach Joe Hanel at email@example.com.