The Arkansas House of Representatives voted 70-27 with one present to approve an appropriation bill to continue for a second year the private option version of Medicaid expansion provided by the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
That was five votes short of the number needed. It will be brought up again.
The vote followed a number of speeches, most from opponents, repeating familiar points. No Democrat spoke. The Senate may vote on the measure before the House votes again. The deal Gov. Mike Beebe cut to buy Tea Party Republican Sen. Jane English’s vote on that side has undoubtedly given some House members ideas about carving off some goodies for themselves. Speaker Davy Carter says, however, there’ll be no further deals. Approve this bill or kill Human Services in Arkansas.
Here are those who voted no, or present or didn’t vote, same as a no.
Alexander Ballinger Barnett Carnine Clemmer Cozart Deffenbaugh Dotson C. Douglas Farrer Fite Gossage
Hammer Harris Hobbs Hopper Hutchison Jean Kerr D. Meeks S. Meeks Miller Payton Rice Slinkard Westerman Womack
Eubanks F. Smith
The difference from passage in 2013: Private option lost 8 votes from passage roll call: Clemmer, Hutchison, Slinkard, Kerr, Carnine, Lowery, Eubanks and Smith. Gained Bell.
Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman, a candidate for 4th District Congress, led opposition. He urged lawmakers to “hold the line in behalf of the people in opposition to this dreadful law.” He said the law didn’t work and wouldn’t fix an “unsustainable” Medicaid system. Looking down as he read from a prepared text, he challenged figures on savings the bill would produce for the state.
Republican Rep. John Burris, a political aide to Obamacare opponent and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Cotton, spoke for the bill as one of its leading architects. He said he agreed with many of Westerman’s criticisms of the national administration. He said Arkansas’s own implementation had run more smoothly than the national experience. But he also said it was wise to control enrollment (by eliminating advertising) and move carefully. He said he supported discouragement of enrollment until there’s a better handle on cost.
Republican Rep. Terry Rice also spoke against the bill. He lost his bid to be House speaker to some of the same forces that produced the private option bipartisan compromise and he’s running for Senate against an incumbent, Bruce Holland, who voted for the deal. He said he thought the legislation was bad before, but now it’s worse. The “true costs” aren’t known, he said, and will put debt on future generations.
Republican Rep. Nate Bell, who’s vowed to try to kill the expansion in 2015, spoke as promised for passage of the appropriation this year. He said it couldn’t be defeated this year, so he made the decision to do what he could to make it best align with his outlook. He’s responsible for the amendment to prevent publicizing it. “Just blocking a bill doesn’t pass anything,” he said. Without a realistic alternative, nothing will happen, he said, except “petty shutdown” games, as in Washington. Conservatives can block passage, but they are not in a position to pass a complete “defund.” The votes are simply not there at this time, he said.
Bell boasted that several hundred people working to sign people up for a “dependency” program will lose their jobs.
Republican Rep. Charlotte Douglas had many criticisms, including saying that the free health care in Canada wasn’t always free. Heads were scratched all over. She said the debate had been rushed and lacked transparency, despite a debate that goes back, on the national level, to 2010. She wanted more study.
Republican Rep. Charlie Collins was another who excoriated Obamacare before saying he planned to vote for it.