government shutdown

Will Session End On Time?

When the House of Delegates and Senate passed their respective budgets several days ago, the most glaring difference between the two, as anticipated, was the two chambers' approaches to Medicaid expansion. To wit, Obamacare in Virginia. The Senate included expanding Obamacare in its budget despite agreement last year with the House that the issue would be kept separate from the budget so it wouldn't become a stumbling block to passing a future budget. The agreement consisted of the creation of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, which has the authority to make recommendations to the General Assembly concerning expansion. Its charter is to formulate necessary reforms for the abuse- and fraud-ridden program that state and federal governments must accept before Medicaid expansion gets anywhere near a floor vote for approval.

MIRC has yet, after almost a year's work, to draft its recommendations for reform. Instead, it continued its efforts for another year. Despite last year's agreement and MIRC's continuation, three Senate Republicans — John WatkinsWalter Stosch and Emmett Hanger — joined all 20 Democrats to passing the Senate budget with Medicaid expansion in it. The Senate and Governor Terry McAuliffe want to backtrack on last year's arrangement and want Obamacare expanded immediately.

To emphasize its position, House Republicans offered a budget floor amendment, modeled after the Senate expansion plan. It promptly went down 67-32. House Republicans have maintained that it would be irresponsible to expand Obamacare because future costs would be so great that it could cripple the state budget.

They also argue that the program is wrought with inefficiency and fraud and have proposed a first-ever outside audit before any expansion can take place. By example, former Governor Tim Kaine refused a VDOT audit for his four years and closed rest stops and other unnecessary cuts. After he left office, the audit House Republicans sought finally took place and revealed more than $1 billion in waste. There's no telling how much waste an audit of Medicaid would uncover since it is much larger than VDOT — about 21 percent of Virginia's budget and growing fast.

Most insiders in Richmond believe that the battle over Obamacare expansion will leave the state without a budget well into spring, if not longer. A new budget must be adopted by June 30 or state government could theoretically "shut down" July 1. Governor McAuliffe has stated that he intends to veto any budget sent to him that does not include Obamcare expansion and willingly shut down state government in order to get his way — not this session's much referenced, bipartisan-and-honor-your-agreements buzz phrase, "Virginia Way." That means police and fire departments without funding, teachers without pay and roads unpaved, among other disruptions.

A few days after the House passed its budget, reports surfaced that that Governor McAuliffe threatened vetoes of legislators' unrelated bills if they didn't go along with expansion,  something his office quickly denied. But delegates took to the floor later to recount the governor's bullying tactics and threats.

The House and Senate remain in conference in an attempt to settle their budget differences. But if conferees cannot come up with a solution before March 8, the General Assembly will have to adjourn without a budget — an unprecedented scenario that is growing more likely by the hour during this last week of session. Also, should a budget not pass, or a budget pass without the continuation of the MIRC, some believe that the governor will unilaterally expand Obamacare. That action could result in litigation, leaving it up to Attorney General Mark Herring to choose sides on the issue.

If it all sounds like Washington style politics and not "The Virginia Way," you're right. It's what many predicted during the campaign if Governor McAuliffe was elected. Be prepared to watch this battle go on well into the spring, and beyond.

Virginia, and "The Virginia Way," isn't for shutdowns. But it may come to that. 

Senator Compassionless

Liberals think they have a monopoly on compassion. They may be right . . . if one defines compassion by how much of other people's money you spend. But even that was called into question today by the far left Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who exposed the Left's hypocrisy by refusing to pass bills sent to it by the House of Representatives to keep specific federal agencies open during this so-called government. By the way, the Senate majority party also refused to go to a conference committee with the House on any number of spending bills the House has passed to keep the government open, as if it's an insult and not the normal legislative process, demanding the House pass exactly what Senator Reid wants — or it will do nothing at all. So, who exactly is responsible for the shutdown? Conference committees happen every day in state legislatures and used to be a common occurrence in Washington. At the General Assembly they occur with great frequency at the end of session, under tense deadlines, and bills of all kinds get passed — including budgets. (Yet, some running for statewide office this year want to bring the Washington model to Richmond.)

Earlier today, in a random act of journalism, Dana Bash of CNN asked Senator Reid why not pass a House spending bill to fund the National Institute of Health to help children with cancer if he was so concerned about healthcare (i.e., Obamacare). Senator Reid's comments were chilling, the words of ruling parties in despotic countries. See the video below, especially toward the end:

Senator Reid on helping children with cancer during the shutdown: "Why would we want to do that?"

Apparently, then, it's not about healthcare. It's about control — the right of the government to control us and our healthcare decisions, while it exempts itself from Obamacare. Yet, how many times do we hear liberals say, about any issue, "If it can save just one life"?

It's not hypothetical, either. Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius ruled (there's that word again) under her Obamacare powers, that a young girl could not receive a lung transplant. (What in the world is a cabinet secretary doing meddling in an individual medical case?) Fortunately, the girl's parents went legal on the Death Czar and a federal judge rebuked her order prohibiting the procedure.

In addition to Senator Reid's callous, cold determination to deny children cancer treatment, he did another demeaning thing at his news conference. For someone so eager to accuse his political opponents of waging a "war on women," notice his patronizing, belittling verbal joust at Ms. Bash toward the end of the video. It reminded me of this classic remark made four years ago, which also demeaned a woman reporter, by another verbally bumbling liberal politician at a news conference, which made the news as well.

Tell us what you really think: Liberal pols revealing their hypocrisy on healthcare and women.