Republicans pass budget: McAuliffe vows fight not over

Democrat vs. Republican on whiteWith their new majority in the Senate won with a backroom deal with disgraced Democrat Phil Puckett in tow, Republicans broke the budget logjam on Thursday, finally passing a state budget that does not include Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s signature expansion of the state Medicaid rolls.

“This was a stunning victory for the Republicans. We passed a budget in a single night and we have effectively blocked Medicaid expansion,” said Loudoun Republican State Sen. Dick Black on the heels of the midnight deal that came after hours of back-and-forth debate not among Republicans and Democrats but among Republicans and Republicans.

The GOP factions were fighting with themselves over language in the budget that the hardliners wanted inserted to guarantee that neither Gov. McAuliffe nor an independent Medicaid commission could authorize additional Medicaid spending without General Assembly approval.

The internecine squabbles came on the heels of the stunning Tuesday primary defeat of Eric Cantor, the #2 Republican in the House of Representatives, to a Tea Party-backed challenger. After the vote, senators were privately detailing details of the discussions over the in-fighting related to the Cantor defeat, saying that the focus came to be on being seen as not doing anything that could be construed by voters as supporting the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Democrats reacted to the votes with predictable scorn.

“I am incredibly disappointed and deeply troubled that the adopted budget did not include Marketplace Virginia or any other compromise to close the coverage gap,” Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said. “To date, Virginians have paid over $810 million in federal taxes intended to go towards closing the coverage gap, but we have yet to bring any of that money back to the Commonwealth to provide health care for low-income, uninsured individuals, and to create thousands of good jobs. For months, the Republican leadership has failed to produce alternatives or engage in meaningful debate or compromise on this issue. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer.”

Republicans just passed a budget that moves the Commonwealth backwards by denying 400,000 Virginians access to affordable health care, denying teachers and state employees a raise, raids higher education, reduces funding for core government services, and undermines every inch of progress made by the bipartisan General Assembly last year on closing the coverage gap,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano.  “This vote was made possible by Senator Phil Puckett’s decision to abandon his constituents and hand control of the State Senate to Republicans, The Republican Party has once again shown that it cares more about the extreme right Tea Party wing of their caucus than the well-being of the 8.1 million Virginians they were elected to serve.”

McAuliffe, in a statement, seemed to suggest that he could use his veto pen to deal with the Republican budget.

“This evening’s actions demonstrated how deeply committed Republicans in the General Assembly are to denying 400,000 Virginians access to life saving healthcare. Instead of moving forward on a plan to close the coverage gap, the Senate of Virginia moved our Commonwealth backward by violating the terms of the bipartisan agreement they reached in last year’s budget,” McAuliffe said.

“When this budget reaches my desk, I will evaluate it carefully and take the actions that I deem necessary, but this fight is far from over. This is the right thing to do for Virginia, and I will not rest until we get it done,” McAuliffe said.