Republicans ‘don’t see an end’ to Medicaid standoff, fear for bond rating

STANDOFF: Republicans in the House, led by Speaker Bill Howell, don’t see an end to the battle over Medicaid and the budget yet.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA — If leading Republicans are right, the battle over Medicaid expansion could leave Virginia wounded.

House Republicans are “more resolute” than ever on holding off Medicaid expansion, Majority Whip Jackson Miller said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

Since neither Republicans nor Democrats want to budge, the standoff over whether to expand Medicaid could very well pass the June 30 deadline to lock down a budget.

“This standoff, I don’t see an end to it,” Miller said.

Failing to write a budget in time could tank Virginia’s AAA-bond rating, a prized status that allows the state to borrow money at a low interest rate.

“It’s going to be disastrous for the state,” Speaker of the House Bill Howell told reporters, referencing a government shutdown scenario, much like the federal shutdown last fall over Obamacare. “I’d be surprised if we didn’t lose our triple AAA-bond rating as a result.”

House Republicans want to pass a budget now and deal with the question of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act later, while Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate want to pass a budget with a version of expansion.

Howell said he’s “optimistic that cool heads will prevail,” but he added he has no evidence to backup his optimism.

“I’m just an optimistic guy,” Howell said.

On the left, Democrats are fighting just as hard for a win.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigned on Medicaid expansion last year, even proposing to fund some of his expanded programs with money he said would come from growing Medicaid.

“There have been a number of proposals offered that would close the coverage gap,” McAuliffe said last week in a news release. “The House and Senate know that I am open to a variety of options that could be used to expand (health care) coverage, including a private marketplace option. It is time for members of both chambers to come together and get this done.”

— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org, and can be reached at kwatson@watchdog.org, or on Twitter @kathrynw5

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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