LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona said Thursday that despite opposition from legislators from within her own party, she's seeking money from the federal government to implement a key part of the health care overhaul she opposes in order to prepare her state in case the law is upheld.
Brewer told The Associated Press on Thursday that she didn't view her $29.8 million request for setting up a health insurance exchange as inconsistent with her opposition to the federal law. The exchange would be an online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to shop for health insurance. The federal law requires states to either set up an exchange or face the prospect of one established for them by the federal government.
"I believe that Arizona would be far better off to engage in a health exchange that we operate to fit our particular kind of delivery of services," said Brewer, who joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging the health care law. "I don't believe that one particular type of exchange is going to bode well for 50 different states. It's incomprehensible. I do hope we win in court, but Arizona is going to be prepared and ready to go and we want to be in charge."
Brewer said a state-run exchange, if it has to be implemented, makes more sense and Arizona should be prepared for that possibility.
"I would rather have not had to ask for the money, but certainly I know life is full of risks," Brewer said. "If some part of the Obama plan does find muster, Arizona will be prepared. That's what I do as governor of Arizona, and that's be prepared and do the right thing for Arizona."
Brewer planned to speak Thursday night at a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Arkansas. Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, decided against applying for a similar $3.8 million grant for Arkansas after a group of Republican lawmakers said they were opposed to the move. Beebe did not need the Legislature's approval to seek the money, but said he wouldn't apply for it without their support.
Brewer has faced opposition from lawmakers within her own party over the grant application. A key Republican lawmaker there said Arizona shouldn't set up an exchange while the overhaul's fate remains decided.
That criticism echoes complaints from Arkansas House Minority Leader John Burris and other Arkansas Republican who wrote to Beebe and asked him to not seek the grant. Brewer, however, said she didn't believe lawmakers in Arkansas were wrong to object to the grant.
"I think legislators have the right to represent their constituents any way they feel best serves them, and I think that's what they've exercised to do," she said.
Brewer also said Thursday that she believed Texas Gov. Rick Perry would have to explain his immigration stance as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination. Perry has come under fire from some conservatives for signing a law allowing Texas to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, a practice that Arizona has banned. Perry has also said that Arizona's controversial immigration law, enacted under Brewer, would not be the "right direction" for Texas.
"I think it's an issue where he's going to have to explain to the public why he made those decisions," Brewer said. "I have not talked with Gov. Perry in regards to that since he became a candidate and that's for him to be able to explain why he did what he has done in Texas. We certainly know in Arizona that is not the wishes of the people of Arizona, nor do I believe in the country."
Brewer, however, indicated those positions may not rule out supporting Perry's bid. Brewer has said she won't endorse a candidate before Arizona hosts a Republican presidential debate on Dec. 1.
"There's a lot of things that I'm going to have to consider when I decide and determine who I'm going to support," she said. "You never 100 percent agree with everyone, so you have to look at a lot of reasons why you're supporting someone, why you don't believe you can support them and what do you agree on."
Brewer said that she believes former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who announced Wednesday that she wouldn't seek the GOP nomination, would remain a major player within the party. Palin has written the foreword to a book Brewer will release in November.
"I think we haven't seen the last of Sarah Palin," she said.
Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo