NASHVILLE - A House Calendar and Rules Committee meeting on the Health Freedom Act abruptly ended in confusion and shouting this morning after 11 of 12 Republicans on the panel walked out.
The sole remaining Republican - Chairman Bill Dunn - then adjourned proceedings despite shouts of "no" from the 12 Democrats who remained.
"The ayes have it," Rep. Dunn, R-Knoxville, declared on the adjournment motion and then dashed for the door as angry Democrats began shouting for a roll-call vote.
Earlier, the 24-member panel, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, deadlocked repeatedly on votes regarding the act. The GOP-backed legislation seeks to block federal health care reform from going into effect in Tennessee.
"This is what happens when it (the panel) is split 50-50," said Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, as Republicans pushed to move the measure to the full House floor and Democrats sought to send it back to the Health and Human Resources Committee.
When the bell rang for the regular House floor session, Republicans began filtering out of the committee.
House Speaker Kent Williams, the presumed tie breaker, was absent from the committee. He was back home in Elizabethton visiting with his latest grandson, born earlier this week.
It was unclear whether the Calendar and Rules Committee would try to resume business later today.
For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.