IMMEDIATE RELEASE 27 June 2014
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – The nationwide battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party continues unabated. Moderate Sen. Thad Cochran defeated a Tea Party challenger in Mississippi, but Rep. Eric Cantor, himself a non-moderate conservative, was defeated by a more conservative Tea Party challenger in Virginia. Now, Virginia’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates, dominated by the party’s conservative wing, continues to block the expansion of Medicaid, knowing they will be denying health coverage to 400,000 Virginians, including veterans and the disabled.
Virginia is what’s known as a donor state, routinely sending more to the federal government than it gets back. The impasse over expanding Medicaid makes the gap even bigger. You don’t even have to count the lost health and wellbeing for people denied coverage to see the folly of the state’s Republican representatives.
The feds will pay the entire cost for the first several years, and then upwards of 90 percent after that. It’s a no-brainer, and the only reason Republicans are standing in the way is ideology. They say it’s because they don’t trust the federal government to deliver on its promise, and fear they’ll be left holding the bag. But that fear has proved groundless with other social safety net programs, like Medicare and Social Security, so the impasse is really purely ideological.
If anyone can bridge the gap, it’s Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. A moderate, business-oriented Democrat, who knows how the game is played, and who has worked at the nexus of money and politics his entire career. One of Bill Clinton’s closest friends, he raised millions for Democrats and is a multi-millionaire himself.
He’s been so successful at leveraging power, politics and money, he’s a triple threat, and he’s in a real standoff with the GOP. Although Virginia is regarded as a purple state, and the top three elected officials are all Democrats, pockets of the state are deep red. The surprise defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor at the hands of a Tea Party-backed college professor has left Republicans even more frightened of anything that might label them moderate.
A betting person would put his or her money on McAuliffe to devise a way around the GOP to expand Medicaid and do what’s right for the citizens of Virginia. He’s got just one term in office; Virginia governors can’t run for reelection, at least not consecutively. McAuliffe is clever, and he’s determined to keep his campaign promise.
He ran on a commitment to expand Medicaid, and he’s looking at ways he can do that legally if not legislatively. It’s not an ideological thing for McAuliffe, he’s happy to change the name and expand coverage on Republican terms if that’s what it takes. In Kentucky, they call the program Kynect. Virginia could play with the name too, take away any connection to Obamacare, call it GOPcare; maybe that will work.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Republicans sought access to McAuliffe’s suite in the state capitol on Father’s Day Sunday so they could drop off a copy of the state budget bill. Why the rush? Under state law, the governor has just seven days to respond and perhaps figure a way to get Medicaid into the package. Slipping the bill into McAuliffe’s deserted office on a Sunday crunched the time, making an already difficult decision tougher.
According to an account in The Washington Post, Republican House Speaker William J. Howell called the chief of Capitol Police away from his Father’s Day festivities to escort House staffers into McAuliffe’s private office suite. It was all perfectly legal, just highly unusual. Earlier this month, a Democratic state senator resigned to take a job on a commission, effectively handing control of the Virginia Senate to the Republicans. The former lawmaker has since declined the commission job, but the FBI is investigating. And all this is to deny health coverage to people who need it. Go figure.
© 2014 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND