Now things are getting truly crazy in Florida. Legislators who oppose the Medicaid expansion are locking reporters out of meetings about the issue. And Republicans who support it are saying this episode is now reflecting badly on the national GOP.
Background: State Senate Republicans support a “conservative” version of the expansion. The administration may withhold federal money for the Low Income Pool — which pays hospitals to treat the uninsured — that Scott and Republicans prefer, and instead wants Florida to take the expansion money, which would cover at least 800,000 Floridians. But that’s Obamacare, so Americans for Prosperity, Governor Scott and state House Republicans are dug in against it. Result: A budget impasse that’s imperiling, among other things, the tax cuts Republicans want.
Florida House Republicans just discussed the showdown over health care in a secret meeting in Tallahassee. But they may not have realized a veteran Associated Press reporter was listening through the door. AP reporter Gary Fineout held his ear to the closed door, because House leaders would not let the public see or hear what they’re doing.
State law bans three or more lawmakers from discussing pending legislation behind closed doors. But the House Republicans walked right past the journalists, then locked out the media, in order to privately discuss the legislative battle over health care. Representative John Wood chanted ‘liberty’ as he walked past reporters camped in the hallway…
“It’s important for our members to ask questions and that’s what they did,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. He said they did not discuss pending legislation. But when Crisafulli was told that [he] was overheard telling members to ‘stand like a rock on the issue,’ he justified his remarks by saying there is no legislation in the house on Medicaid expansion.
About Representative Wood chanting “liberty” at the assembled reporters: It’s worth noting that state House Republicans and Scott want federal money to cover health care in the form of LIP; they just don’t want it if it’s part of “Obamacare.” Their ostensible reason is that the feds can’t be trusted to keep their end of the Medicaid bargain, leaving the state on the hook. But state Senate Republicans reject that argument.
Florida reporter Marc Caputo notes that the impasse could result in a government shutdown, which could hurt the state’s economy. And one Senate Republican is now arguing that the whole mess could be a “problem” for “the image of the Republican Party in America.”
Indeed, as Brian Beutler noted recently, this mess provides a window into a much bigger story: In multiple ways, GOP opposition to Obamacare has “boomeranged” on Republicans and come into conflict with their own core interests. Alas, all the national attention to this one corner of that story is only likely to inflate the symbolic status of this budget battle into yet another Great and Glorious Struggle against Obamacare Tyranny, perhaps making it less likely that opponents accept the Medicaid expansion in the end, whatever the consequences.
The level of hostility to Obamacare makes very little sense — unless it’s about something beyond the policy particulars. It could be the fact that Democrats finally accomplished something big, for the first time in several decades, thereby expanding the welfare state at a time when conservatives thought they were on their way to shrinking it. Or it could be the idea that, on net, the Affordable Care Act transfers resources away from richer, whiter people to poorer, darker people. Or it could be the fact that “Obamacare” contains the word “Obama,” whose legitimacy as president at least some conservatives just can’t accept.
Of course, Rick Scott and state House Republicans could always solve their mess by taking the Medicaid expansion money and saying it isn’t Obamacare.
One interesting thing to watch: How many Republicans will suddenly be willing to grant Obama vast authority to negotiate an international deal with insufficient oversight from Congress?
Two things to watch today: Committee member Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a leading skeptic of TPP, will likely push an array of changes, such as a currency manipulation provision. And it will be interesting to see where Chuck Schumer, likely the next leader of Senate Dems, comes down given all the divisions in the party on the issue.
* HILLARY DODGING QUESTIONS ON FAST TRACK: Asked in New Hampshire whether she supports fast track authority for the president, Hillary Clinton declines to answer directly:
Clinton, campaigning in New Hampshire, dodged a direct question of whether she supported giving Mr. Obama trade promotion authority. “Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security,” she said. “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and the skills to be competitive.”
Clinton will presumably have to say where she stands on the granting of this authority in particular. Beyond that, while she has been making nice noises about what she wants in a final agreement, it seems likely she’ll support it in the end, forcing her to navigate Dem divisions.
* AND THE POLL FINDING OF THE DAY, CONSERVATIVE CLIMATE-SKEPTICISM EDITION: Gallup’s latest:
While notable majorities of all other political party/ideology groups say the effects of global warming will happen within their lifetime, fewer than four in 10 conservative Republicans (37%) agree, a sign of that political identity’s strident skepticism on this issue.