If you’re a Republican in state government, you couldn’t ask for a better, more unified showing out of your party’s legislative leadership than was shown during last week’s Medicaid special session.
A special session that very well could have pushed into the weekend was concluded in two days (minus any overnight wrangling). Although, had Democrats not played legislative games and delayed the inevitable with overplayed oratory, it may could have been done in one. Heck, had that not happened during the regular session, there would have been no need for a special session. But I digress.
Gov. Phil Bryant and his policy team set the tone for the session with the carefully articulated parameters of the call. It was a homerun in terms of policy execution, clearly exemplifying the Governor’s legislative experience.
Speaker Phillip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves executed their roles superbly in their respective chambers, having whipped the necessary votes and enlisting sympathetic members to frame the debate in such a manner that Democrats simply had no other choice but to support the measures en masse, and they did, or be faced with damning electoral consequences from their liberal base come 2015.
If you’re a Democrat, then you’re probably licking your wounds and trying your best to find a spin doctor to help ease the butt whooping the Legislative GOP leaders and Republican Governor gave you and your fellow state liberals. You’re likely desperately searching for some small victory to hang your hat on to try and convince your base, what little there is in conservative Mississippi, that you are right and those dang ole, heartless Republicans are wrong about expanding Medicaid, accepting billions in federal funds the federal government itself doesn’t have, and your beloved Obamacare.
When all you’re left with is gloating over a vote on a failed amendment everyone in Mississippi politics knew was doomed and you spin that debacle as “a masterful job of putting everyone on the record on Medicaid expansion” (via Cottonmouth) then you know there’s pain in the party.
Truth be told, Democrats’ Medicaid expansion efforts as well as their ongoing attempts to paint their Republican colleagues as uncaring and out of touch with poor Mississippians were already defeated before even stepping foot in the Capitol. But the inevitability didn’t keep them from trying anyway.
House and Senate Democrats did offer expansion amendments and both were soundly defeated. As Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Greg Snowden wrote, “The appropriations amendments were debated in both chambers, and the roll call votes from both bodies suggest an obvious conclusion: There currently is little appetite for Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Mississippi’s Legislature.”
What’s more, House Democrats were out flanked when the Senate amended their reauthorization bill to include the hospital tax sending it back to the House for a do or die vote as the upper chamber went home Sine Die.
As reported by the AP, House Democratic leader Bobby Moak said, “I sort of feel like this chamber has been bamboozled. I understand that because I’ve been a part of bamboozling the other chamber a lot.”
I guess Republicans were watching when Billy, Bobby, Cecil, Tommy and the rest of the liberal boys were in charge. It’s not so much fun when the shoe’s on the other foot.
Contrary to the AP article’s implication, the House wasn’t “bamboozled” by Reeves and the Senate, just House Democrats. House Republican leaders knew what was coming and executed their part of the drama well.
At the end of the day, Gunn and the House majority went home happy having achieved their goal while the Democratic minority was outplayed; Reeves and the Senate were content and firmly supportive of their colleagues in the lower chamber; and Bryant had a major policy and political win thanks to the cohesiveness between he, the Speaker and the Lt. Governor.
Come January 2014 I would expect a number of bills aimed at Medicaid. The newly formed Senate Conservative Coalition has already been tossing the “reform” word around, and I’m sure House and Senate Democrats will introduce bills for expansion as they continue to press for more Obamacare in Mississippi.
But for now, chalk this battle up for Mississippi Republicans. They held their ground and remained unified with their leadership, a feat Mississippi GOP legislators will need to repeat as more liberal programs and policy decisions flow out from Washington and make their way into the hopper in future sessions.