Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 19, 2013

Sen. Walker lashes out at vote critic

TRAVERSE CITY — State Sen. Howard Walker lashed out at a conservative talk-radio host who accused him of being a "weak Republican" because of Walker's vote to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

"Screw you, as far as weak Republicans, dude," Walker told Brian Sommerfield at a Republican Party luncheon in Petoskey on Monday.

Walker, a Republican whose state Senate district includes Grand Traverse County and several other northern Michigan counties, then repeated his comment for those who missed it the first time.

"I said, 'Screw you, as far as calling me a weak Republican,'" Walker said. "The heck with you. I stood by my campaign commitment and I think I did what was right.

"It was a lot easier saying no than it was saying yes on that," Walker said.

The same day Walker defended his vote in Petoskey, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that will expand the government health insurance program to an estimated half-million Michiganders as part of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Many GOP-led states opposed to the law have declined the expansion, despite the U.S. government promising to cover the entire cost for the first three years and 90 percent later.

The bill, dubbed “Healthy Michigan” by its supporters, earned bipartisan support in the House but the majority of Republicans in the Senate opposed it. The bill passed in the Senate on Aug. 27 after just eight of the chamber's 26 Republicans, including Walker, joined all 12 Democrats.

Sommerfield, a Petoskey accountant, said northern Michigan Republicans overwhelming opposed the expansion and he wanted to know why Walker went against his party's majority.

Sommerfield said he didn't think his question about Walker's vote was too tough, but his characterization of Walker as a "weak Republican" pushed the veteran lawmaker over the edge.

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