Since many governors have delayed a decision, the administration has extended the deadline for compliance. Some, like Nikki Haley of South Carolina, have decided against setting up a state exchange. And Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin announced last week he won’t. “Operating a state exchange would not provide the flexibility to meet our state’s unique needs or to protect our state’s taxpayers,” he said in a letter to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid also gives governors an opportunity to put pressure on the administration. They can refuse to accept funds to increase the Medicaid rolls. Conservative governors may “propose a deal of sorts with the Obama administration: an expansion of coverage … in exchange for vastly more flexibility … even up to a full block grant of the program,” wrote Ben Domenech of the Heartland Institute. That’s a long shot, but worth pursuing by bold governors.
Besides Obamacare, there are many other programs ripe for pushback. The explosion of food stamps is one. The 83 separate (and overlapping) federal welfare programs cry out for spending cuts. According to Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, they cost $1.03 trillion a year. Speaking of costs, Romney and Republicans paid dearly for their near-silence in response to a Democratic onslaught on abortion and same-sex marriage. Acting as if a truce had been reached on social issues—at the very time Democrats insisted Republicans were waging a “war on women”—was an unforced error with dire consequences.