McDonnell and an even more reluctant House accepted that deal in February, creating a commission that has begun meeting and monitoring progress on the sought-after reforms. As Democrats celebrated that seeming victory, McDonnell and fellow Republicans opposed to Obamacare said that the deal would make it harder to expand Medicaid because the decision would lie with the GOP-dominated commission, not the next governor.
But regardless of what the commission decides, people on both sides of the debate generally agree that the next governor could try to bypass the panel by deciding whether to include the federal Medicaid money in the state budget. The hurdle then would be to get the General Assembly to go along with that budget.
If it includes Medicaid expansion, that could be a tall order in the House, where Republicans are not expected to lose their overwhelming majority in this year’s elections.
“The House has very strong reservations about Medicaid expansion,” said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “It’s certainly not something the House has favored in the past, so to draw that line in the sand at this point is problematic.”
House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said “horse trading” might sway some Republicans. He praised McAuliffe for vowing to make Medicaid expansion part of any budget he signs.
“I think it’s great that he’s doing it because he’s laying down a marker,” Toscano said. “He’s saying uncategorically that this is a priority. . . . McAuliffe is attempting to lead. He believes, as I do, that this should not be a partisan issue.”
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who dropped out of the race for governor early this year, has endorsed Medicaid expansion. He said the General Assembly will have to find a compromise.
“I think both sides are just doing a little political posturing on this issue, staking out their respective positions,” Bolling said. “Most Republicans in the House of Delegates don’t want to expand Medicaid, but Senate Democrats and some Senate Republicans do. The political realities of a divided legislature will ultimately force both sides to give a little bit to reach an agreement. I think Mr. McAuliffe understands that.”