Virginia Senate Might Torpedo Medicaid Expansion

Virginia Senate Might Torpedo Medicaid Expansion

Democrats still need to flip one more GOP senator to make it happen.

Usually it’s the state Senate that leads on progressive issues, and the House of Delegates kind of drags its feet. Not this year.

Republican leaders in the House of Delegates included revenue from expanding Medicaid in their budget, a sudden shift in support for a program they’ve been opposing for years. On his way out the door, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe included more than $400 million in revenue from expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans want to oppose expanding health insurance to 400,000 people who live in poverty or with disabilities, they’ll have to find money to shore up the state’s credit rating and give raises to teachers.

“While some of you may continue to be hesitant about expansion,” Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones told his colleague, “the fact is that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Senate Republicans might end up torpedoing the deal, or at least engaging in brinkmanship leading up to the July 1 deadline for passing a budget or facing a government shutdown. So far, the only Republican senator onboard the Medicaid train is state Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-24), co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. When asked about which of his colleagues might flip, Hanger said he wasn’t sure.

“I wouldn’t venture to guess on that right now. I think it’ll be a collective kind of thing where you reach a tipping point where it makes sense. So I’m not working on any individuals right now to try to convince them otherwise. I’m just working on a product.”

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax cannot break ties on budget votes. So Democrats need to peel off one more vote on the other side the aisle. State Sen. Rosalyn Dance (D-16) says she feels confident that will happen, although she doesn’t want to name names just yet.

“I’m not giving it up,” said Dance. “But I’ll tell you what — I’m cautiously optimistic that once both sides have an opportunity to tweak what will be the final product, it won’t be just what the House brought out, it will be the House and Senate’s product.”