- Brian Chilson
- FOR MEDICAID: Advocates of Medicaid expansion again demonstrated outside the House this morning.
The Arkansas House voted, 77-23, today to approve the appropriation bill, HB 1219, to pay for a federally financed expansion of Medicaid health insurance coverage under President Obama’s health care legislation.
The House had fallen six votes short of the 75 needed in the first try yesterday. These changes accounted for the change from 69 yesterday:
Voting aye today after no votes or non-votes yesterday: Les Carnine, Ann Clemmer, Jon Eubanks, John Hutchison, Allen Kerr, Kelly Linck, Stephanie Malone, Sue Scott, and Mary Lou Slinkard. (Clemmer and Malone didn’t vote; Slinkard voted present.) Flipped to no from aye yesterday: Stephen Meeks
The full roll call here.
House Speaker Davy Carter had wrangled the votes and expected the outcome. He had a prepared statement ready minutes after the vote:
I commend my colleagues who have just cast a difficult vote in favor of the ‘private option’. With their support, Arkansas now leads the nation with a conservative alternative to the policy forced upon us by the federal government.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where the enabling legislation drew 24 votes, with 27 needed for approval of the appropriation bill. Under the Constitution, the bill can’t be read twice in the same day, so it will be read in the Senate today and a vote will come tomorrow. UPDATE: The enabling legislation got 28 favorable votes in the Senate this afternoon, a favorable indicator for tomorrow. One senator, however, Missy Irvin, said her “aye” vote was a mistake.
- David Goins/Fox 16
- NOW COME THE TAX CUTS: Gov. Mike Beebe, meeting reporters after, said tax cut bills will now move forward with Medicaid expansion vote.
As yesterday, Rep. Duncan Baird merely explained that the bill was the Department Human Services appropriation. Today, unlike yesterday, there were many speeches for and against the legislation, bitter ones from a couple of opponents.
Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena said there’d been “threats and intimidation” made against members and families. “Do you want to be on the side of threats and intimidation or doyou want to vote what’s in your heart.” Bell perhaps referred in part to reporting that his wife has been employed by a lobby, Americans for Prosperity, working against the bill.
Rep. John Payton of Wilburn said there was a “threat” in the halls, a threat he connected to soldiers serving in foreign wars. He said General Improvement Funds were being used to coerce votes. (This is the surplus money traditionally divvied up among legislators.) He said the GIF money would be better directed to hospitals.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, an early sponsor of the private option who bailed out last week, against spoke in opposition because of the uncertainty in the numbers. He identified four groups in the chamber — Democrats who’ve consistently supported Medicaid expansion; Republicans who’ve consistently opposed it; Republicans who’ve opposed expansion, but researched the issue and decided private option was the best route forward, and Republican colleagues who’ve opposed expansion who’ll vote for it, not because it’s the best route forward, but for some other reason. He said he didn’t respect the last group. And he fired at the press who tried to discredit him. And he challenged the hospitals to find opponents to run against him. “I’m going to do the right thing anyway,” he said. “Shame on you,” he said to lobbyists who’d worked to elect candidates who ran on platforms in opposition to Obamacare. “Is this vote worth 30 pieces of silver?”
Rep. John Burris, the Republican who’s led the fight for the so-called private option alternative, responded directly to Payton. He said he’d voted against members-own appropriations for GIF money. He said the money is distributed equitably. “I know we’re all under pressure. That’s a lot different from threats,” he said. He said he didn’t question the sincerity of anyone on either side of the issue and that all were voting for “the right reasons.”