NYT: Virginia Gov. McAuliffe learning the hard way that “jollity” and “bipartisanship” are not the same thing
posted at 12:41 pm on March 24, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
It didn’t matter that he hadn’t actually had any executive or governing experience, Gov. Terry McAuliffe repeatedly assured Virginians during last year’s campaign and again at his inauguration in January, because he would wine and dine his way into the legislature’s hearts and minds the same way he had boozed and schmoozed Democratic donors into donating millions of dollars over the decades. Persuading opposition lawmakers on partisan policy positions and cajoling Democrats into giving money to causes in which they probably already believe is more or less the same thing, right?
No. The NYT has noticed:
But Mr. McAuliffe has had a hard comeuppance, as his gift for persuasion has met a conservative Republican majority in the House of Delegates unmoved by the charm offensive. The regular 60-day legislative session ended in stalemate two weeks ago without a state budget. As a special session begins on Monday with both sides raising the specter of a government shutdown, Republicans charge that the governor, serving in his first elected office, is all schmooze and little substance.
“I think he was under the impression you just come down here, slap everybody on the back, have a few cocktail parties and we’d pass things where we have real differences in philosophy,” said Kirk Cox, the Virginia House majority leader. “I don’t think that’s worked for him.” …
In an interview, the congenitally upbeat Mr. McAuliffe said, “Most people would say I had a more successful session than any first-term governor.”
But William J. Howell, speaker of the House, is not one of those people. “I’ve never seen, Republican or Democrat, anybody come in with so little an agenda and so little attention to the process,” he said.
I find it uniquely, poignantly, and painfully hilarious that Team McAuliffe tried their darndest to associate Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli with national gridlock and the federal shutdown last fall, a fate that McAuliffe claimed he was well-qualified to avoid — and yet that could potentially be what’s happening in Virginia under the first few months of his leadership. The state legislature is going into a special session today, because their regular session ended a couple of weeks ago without a budget and without having expanded Medicaid — a prize that both McAuliffe and the Obama administration have been pushing hard as a top priority. State Republicans are the ones who would like to decouple and pass a “clean” budget from the Medicaid issue, so they can avoid a potentially looming shutdown (which would start on July 1st) and debate the Medicaid issue later in the year (Virginia lawmakers generally only meet twice a year for six weeks each, a rule of which I am excessively fond), but McAuliffe and his fellow Democrats know that separating the two action items will leave them without much leverage to go on. Oh, how the tables have turned.
Anyhow, in opening up the session this morning, McAuliffe introduced a possible idea for a trial “pilot” program in the hopes of moving Republicans toward his own line of thinking; we’ll see where that gets us:
Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing expanding Medicaid under a two-year pilot that he says could end at that time without financial penalty to the state. …
McAuliffe said he has assurance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that Virginia can launch a two year pilot to use the federal funds and get out of it with no obligation.
The letter he said opens the door for “a pragmatic and balanced approach to closing the health care coverage gap.” …
If expansion ends, he says he will take the responsibility. …
“Everybody else is off the hook,” he said.