Arizona’s conservative GOP lawmakers are getting a taste of their own medicine as fellow-bully, Governor Jan Brewer, flexes her muscles in their direction for a change. After refusing to participate in setting up a state health insurance exchange, Brewer has done an about-face?of sorts in eagerly embracing Medicaid expansion.
It’s all about the money, of course, but die-hard conservatives would shoot the state in the financial foot rather than cooperate with the Obama administration. Brewer, however, has refused to sign any of the legislature’s bills into law until she gets her way on both Medicaid expansion and a completed state budget for 2014. In May, she vetoed five conservative bills to punctuate her position.
One of the bills was a pet project of Tea Partiers: SB 1178, designed to allow churches and businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation while claiming they are exercising ‘religious freedom’. In each of the five veto letters, addressed to Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, the governor wrote:
It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat. I respectfully ask that legislators join me to resolve our budgetary and health care challenges. Once these primary issues are behind us, I am happy to once again consider unrelated legislation.
The message is, Tangle with Brewer at your own peril. This is the woman who dared to literally poke her finger in President Obama’s eye in plain view of the world, who signed the notorious anti-immigration legislation SB 1070, who was mean-spirited enough to deny drivers’ licenses to Dreamers on the very day last year that they became eligible to apply for deportation deferrals, and who has taken every opportunity to deny healthcare to women. It’s no small task to create such a wide swath of destruction through the political minefield of human rights, but Brewer has nothing if not an oversized dose of chutzpah.
Now it looks like she’s about to work her will with the GOP-dominated legislature. The state Senate has already voted in favor of Brewer’s Medicaid expansion, with six Republicans joining Democrats to amend and pass her proposed legislation. She has aligned herself with hospitals, Democrats, and a few reasonable Republicans (almost an oxymoron in Arizona) to carry the fight to the House. The coalition could see victory within the week.
Initially, Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, opposed the legislation, but has decided to let it move forward to a vote. It’s not that he’s changed his position on the bill, which would add 300,000 poor people to the state’s Medicaid program, 240,000 of whom had been tossed off in recent years because of budget cuts. But he and other critics have a plan. They have pledged to push for a ballot initiative that would take the issue to the voters in 2014–the same ballot on which a new governor will be elected.
It will continue to be a defining political issue for years to come as politicians are made to answer to their constituents for their vote on Medicaid expansion. We are confident that as time passes, those supporting Medicaid expansion will regret their decision or be made to regret it by the voters.
Frank Antenori, a former GOP lawmaker, is already working on a petition drive which must collect 90,000 signatures within 90 days of the law’s passage. Antenori was quoted as saying:
The voters here in Arizona aren’t stupid. They will kill this.
On the surface, that would seem to be a no-brainer in a red state like Arizona but, as Brewer herself has pointed out, voters have twice approved expansion of Medicaid in the past only to see parts of the program be frozen due to a shortfall of funds. She clarifies her position by saying:
We were all so adamant that we didn’t like Obamacare. We fought tooth and nail. But there comes a time, and you have to look at the reality. You have to do the math. I did not make this decision lightly. ? It’s not only a mathematical issue, but it’s a moral issue.
Actually, it’s no doubt the math that carried the day. Opting out of the expansion would cost Arizona $1.4 billion–a year. It seems the GOP must think the electorate is pretty darn stupid if they believe voters, who are also the taxpayers, would stick themselves with that kind of bill.
The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Now, our State’s elected leaders have a duty to do what’s best for Arizona. That’s why Governor Brewer has crafted a conservative plan that ? upholds the will of Arizonans, who?ve twice voted to expand Medicaid … pumps billions of dollars into our economy ? protects hospitals ? and keeps Arizona tax dollars in Arizona.
Has the governor had a change heart on social issues? Has she developed compassion for the poor, the sickly? Count me among the skeptics who think it’s big dollar signs that motivate her, not altruism. Nevertheless, the effect has been to set the more rabid part of Arizona’s GOP against what’s left of the more moderate part. That, in itself, may be signaling a shift in Arizona’s political winds. It gives some long overdue hope to the many citizens who have a scarcity of both hope and resources.
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Edited and published by CB