WASHINGTON — Virginia’s Democratic governor is using President Donald Trump’s failure to repeal Obamacare to heap pressure on Republican state lawmakers to expand Medicaid.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe — who has long supported the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, but has been stymied by GOP legislators in extending the coverage to more than 400,000 Virginians — announced the push Monday.
“President Trump’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed, and even Speaker Ryan has said that Obamacare is the law of the land for the foreseeable future,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “The time has come for us to bring our taxpayer dollars back to serve the individuals who need them the most.”
McAuliffe’s request for a budget amendment that would allow him to expand Medicaid comes as several states are revisiting previous decisions to reject that expansion.
The Republican-led Kansas state senate took up a measure that would expand Medicaid there Monday. And in Maine, more than 70,000 petitioners have secured a 2017 ballot measure to circumvent the Republican governor and expand Medicaid.
The moves come after House Speaker Paul Ryan conceded Friday that “Obamacare is the law of the land” and Trump’s White House signaled its desire to move on to other issues, such as tax reform, after a House GOP push to repeal Obamacare collapsed late last week.
The GOP’s failure may have bolstered McAuliffe’s political argument — but it doesn’t appear to have lessened leading Republican state lawmakers’ opposition to a Medicaid expansion.
Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell led a group of five Republican lawmakers who released a joint statement Monday afternoon rejecting McAuliffe’s call, saying that an expansion — even though 90% of the bill is footed by the federal government — would siphon state resources away from education, transportation and public safety.
“The lack of action in Washington has not changed that, and in fact, the uncertainty of federal health policy underscores the need to be cautious over the long term,” the Republicans said.
The issue is sure to remain contentious through Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial race. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is competing with former Rep. Tom Perriello in the Democratic primary, called on Republicans to “do what is right — from both a moral and business perspective — and expand Medicaid for up to 400,000 hardworking Virginians.”