COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley said Wednesday she will ask President Barack Obama to allow states to opt out of the new federal health care law.
Haley said that will be her top request as governors-elect of both parties meet with Obama on Thursday. Throughout her campaign, the state's soon-to-be first female and first minority governor pledged to fight the health care overhaul to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
"Rather than mandating health care on South Carolina, please allow me and the state of South Carolina to show true solutions and prove why we don't need that mandate rather than forcing it down on us," she told The Associated Press she plans to say. "South Carolina doesn't want it. We will solve it ourselves without that intrusion."
Estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation show roughly 740,000 South Carolinians lack health insurance.
The comments came after Haley and other Republican governors-to-be met with incoming House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Haley said her first postelection trip to Washington was the start of her effort to ask Congress to stop federal mandates, including stimulus packages "that we don't ask for."
Haley pledged to testify before congressional committees.
"We don't need tax increases. We need flexibility in our spending, especially in Medicaid issues," she said. "It's a great day. It's the start of a coalition of governors having a true conversation with D.C. that is not about talk but truly about action, saying we need you to fight for us."
Haley, who was backed by tea parties and endorsed in a four-way GOP primary by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said she would define success as "when they listen — when we get loud enough as a group that they understand that as people are losing faith in Congress, it's up to us as governors to stand up."
Haley said she also hopes to ask Obama to honor the federal government's commitment to open a repository to permanently store high-level nuclear waste. South Carolina and Washington have sued over Obama's attempt to kill plans for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, which was to house more than 4,000 metric tons of waste from South Carolina's Savannah River Site.
"We don't want someone else's trash. We've already given all of our money for them to take it, and for them now to pull the rug out from under us on that is once again a liability we are not going to bear, and give us our money back," Haley said.
South Carolina's power plants have contributed more than $1 billion, Attorney General Henry McMaster has said. He's said he fears not only the waste remaining longer at the Savannah River Site, but more waste being sent to the site near Aiken.
South Carolina lawmakers of both parties are united on that issue. Democratic Reps. John Spratt, who lost his bid last month for a 15th term, and Jim Clyburn have been particularly critical of shelving Yucca.
Palin will be in Columbia on Friday on her book tour. Haley said she's not yet sure whether their schedules will allow them to meet, but she welcomes all potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates to the state that holds the nation's first-in-the-South primary.
"She's someone who was very nice to me when she was in South Carolina," she said. "Whether it's her or Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or anybody that comes to South Carolina, we welcome them, and I'll always welcome them when they come and be gracious in our hosting."