McAuliffe: If this bipartisan commission can’t decide on Medicaid expansion soon, just give me executive authority
posted at 12:01 pm on January 21, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
Hey, remember that one time — you know, barely a week ago — when freshly-inaugurated Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was expressing his imperturbable confidence in his completely untested governing abilities, insisting that his style of politicking would be hyper-bipartisan and touting his commitment to deftly working through the gridlock with an open mind?
But, hey, expanding Medicaid is really, really important, so… wash.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe intends to wrest the power to expand Medicaid away from a legislative commission and put it in his own hands, one of several moves threatening to undermine the new governor’s courtship of the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
McAuliffe (D) announced Monday that he will seek that authority through a proposed budget amendment if the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission does not agree within the next 60 days to enroll 400,000 more Virginians into the federal-state health-care program for the poor. Republicans flatly opposed his proposal on policy grounds and procedural ones: The governor does not have the right, they said, to propose amendments this early in the process. …
“He is saying, ‘Let’s work on a bipartisan, collaborative effort to move Virginia forward.’ And gosh that’s warm and fuzzy,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City). “But . . . ‘I’m going to jam Medicaid expansion through, telling a legislative committee to immediately meet and come to some conclusion. I am insistent on some of the ecumenical approaches that everyone should be able to love whomever they want.’ He’s just thrown down the gauntlet on a number of issues, which I think is a little presumptuous for someone that has been in public office less than a week in his entire life.”
Republicans are in control of the commonwealth’s House of Delegates, and the partisan fate of the state Senate is actually up for a slim-majority grab in a special election being held today — but either way, McAuliffe is going to have to deal with a Republican-held or divided General Assembly, and the Republicans are not impressed with what is one of his first legislative ideas out of the gate after his pre-inauguration weeks of a coordinated, schmooze-tastic charm offensive.
House Republican leaders remain adamantly opposed to expansion, insisting the state must first implement reforms to make Medicaid more cost efficient. Lawmakers last year created the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission to monitor reforms and ultimately decide whether the state should expand eligibility to cover an additional 400,000 low-income Virginians.
“We’re just beginning the process for the MIRC, and to just take some sudden vote because the governor wants to force everyone’s hand is just not wise at all,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.
Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, defended the methodical approach demanded by House Republicans, saying lawmakers must make sure that expansion comes with cost controls.
“That’s why we’re taking this very measured approach,” said Jones, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Why am I not filled with confidence here?