Report: Virginia GOP Uses Controversial Maneuver to Stop Medicaid Expansion to the Poor

medicaidLow-income residents of Virginia without health insurance are discovering just how far the Republican Party in their state will go to prevent them from getting health care  — outright bribery, according to a story in the Washington Post.

The details of this latest political outrage have Republicans in the Virginia state legislature persuading Democratic Sen. Phillip Puckett to resign his seat in exchange for the Republicans appointing Puckett’s daughter to a state judgeship and giving Puckett a job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission.

By Puckett stepping down, it would temporarily give the GOP control of the chamber and possibly allow the party to kill Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plan to follow through on a campaign promise by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, thus giving health care to 400,000 poor Virginians.

Republican insiders told the Post that Puckett is expected to announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately.

The Senate, with a slim 20-19 Democratic majority, was about to pass the Medicaid expansion, while the Republican-controlled House of Delegates tried to stop it. Democrats were banking that if the Republicans shut down the government to block it, the GOP would be blamed. But if Puckett resigns and puts the Republicans in control of both chambers, McAuliffe would have to veto the GOP budget in order to force a showdown over Medicaid.

One outraged legislator, Del. Scott A. Surovell, D-Fairfax, told the Post that Republicans were unable to win the policy argument about Medicaid expansion, so they moved on to more underhanded means.

“It’s astounding to me. The House Republican caucus will do anything and everything to prevent low-income Virginians from getting health care. … They figure the only way they could win was to give a job to a state senator,” Surovell said. “At least they can’t offer Terry McAuliffe a job. I hope Terry continues to stand up to these bullies.”

“I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia,” McAuliffe said to the Post. “This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.”

Puckett’s daughter is Martha Puckett Ketron, who was already a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judge in Southwest Virginia. She had been temporarily made a Circuit Court judge, approved to a six-year term by the House. But the Senate declined to confirm her, stating that it has a policy against appointing the relatives of active legislators to the bench.

“It should pave the way for his daughter,” Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, chairman of the tobacco commission, told the Post. “She’s a good judge. … I would say that he wanted to make sure his daughter kept her judgeship. A father’s going do that.”
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