GOP Heads Off Major Internal Fight Over Medicaid Expansion ... For Now
Republicans pushing for passage of GOP leadership's Obamacare replacement bill were able to head off a major intra-party fight over how the legislation handled Medicaid expansion -- at least for now, as supporters of phasing out expansion even sooner than the current bill withdrew an amendment to that effect Thursday.
Under the leadership's bill, the American Health Care Act, Medicaid expansion would be allowed to continue until the end of 2019, at which point enrollment would be frozen, with the expectation that the program would wither away on its own. Conservatives are pushing for that deadline to come sooner, and Wednesday, during the mark up of the AHCA in the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced an amendment that would have frozen the program at the end of 2017. By Thursday morning, as criticisms of the idea from expansion state Republicans began to rack up, the amendment had been withdrawn and the bill passed by the committee with its expansion provisions as is.
"The challenge is, is you've got a diverse set of stakeholders, you've got moderate senators, you've got conservative folks like me in the House, and then you have the governors, you've got to keep them on board," said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), an Energy and Commerce committee member who is supportive of moving forward the year expansion would freeze from 2020 to 2018.
"That would have spooked the governors," he told TPM, adding that "if we convince the governors it's OK," that it could come back later in the process.
Before it was withdrawn, it had earned the endorsement of the Republican Study Committee, a group a of 170-or-so conservative member whose chair Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) (pictured) has been very critical of the leadership's legislation. Thursday afternoon Walker said "we're still trying to get there," when asked about the fate of expansion amendment and a seperate proposal to impose work requirements on certain Medicaid enrollees that the RSC also endorsed.
A pattern seems to be emerging. Presentation of an outlandish idea that quickly gets retracted leaving a big question mark as to what will happen next. Finally, the deep fractures and crevices within the Republican coalition are beginning to show. Continued obstructionism has left the party with a House full of members who know how to obstruct and precious few who know how to construct coalitions. Meanwhile, the Democrats know that if they just hold firm to their values, the Republicans will self-destruct due to a lack of a unifying force.
The legislative branch may be a toxic disaster zone for the GOP, but they still have all of those appointees in the administrative branch. Hopefully, that branch will stay in such a state of disorganization and lunacy at the top that no effective leadership will be forthcoming.