Similar moves have been made (successfully) by governors in Ohio and Kentucky. We’ve written about this before (see here for an example).
According to an article in The Hill, Sen. Tim Kaine has now picked up on this theme, and made the observation that many Virginia Republicans actually want the Governor to act in this way:
I actually think there are some who would actually rather he do it in an executive way,” Kaine said. “They want it to happen but they don’t want to vote for it to happen and they’d rather he do it.”
In other words, Kaine has accused Virginia House Republicans of false opposition to Medicaid expansion, suggesting that the visible and solid Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion is merely some sort of kabuki theater. And that may be true for some Republicans. It was, after all, the Republican administration of Bob McDonnell that got Virginia to a place where expansion was even possible, and it was the Republican-passed and Republican-signed budget last year that set the stage for expansion via MIRC (and thus, potentially, by the governor). It was widely reported at the time that the Medicaid provisions were necessary to secure Democrat support for McDonnell’s signature tax increase and transportation project. Only 17 members of the House GOP caucus voted against that bill, most of them because of the Medicaid provisions.
This year, House Republicans are taking a very different, very entrenched, and very united position in opposition to Medicaid expansion. If there is any sentiment among the House GOP caucus that supports any kind of Medicaid expansion, it is certainly nowhere on display, beyond possibly Del. Tom Rust (R-Fairfax). The opposition has been so solid, and backed by so much serious argumentation and advocacy, that it seems nearly impossible that there could be a reversal, or any significant peeling away of of enough votes to facilitate legislative passage of Medicaid expansion.
What Kaine said echoes criticisms leveled by Republican Susan Stimpson in an op-ed more than seven weeks ago, where she likened the Medicaid expansion “debate” to a professional wrestling match, “where the fighting is fake, and the outcome is fixed.”
If the suspicions of this unlikely pair of critics are borne out, then grassroots Republicans from around Virginia will be demanding answers, including as to why Republicans did not do more to stop the Governor. For now, the House GOP leadership continues to steadfastly maintain its stance that the Governor does not have the authority to expand Medicaid on his own, and that any such expansion has to come through the House first. We hope, for all our sakes, that they are right.