I’ve been talking lately about the Medicaid expansion fight. I continue to believe that Mississippi House Democrats are handing Phil Bryant, Tate Reeves and Philip Gunn a gift. No one as of yet seems to be willing to open the present.
As background, look at the Redistricting fight. Barbour held strong and prevailed even against a legislative majority. It was a game changer because Barbour knew he was on the right side of the issue. It eventually set up the legislature we have today.
Reauthorizing Medicaid as is right now is the right thing to do. Expanding it is the wrong thing both policy wise and politically. I believe it would poll 70/30 against expansion at least. Based on changes from the Feds, there may be some minor changes in the program that helps keep the program at current financial parity, but (a) no one knows what that looks like yet and (b) the prudent move is to reauthorize as-is and make a decision later on based on good data.
If I were Governor, I would wait till the session has expired. I would then call a special session with one bill called “An Act to Reauthorize Medicaid”. Use a really narrow call and define the issue in such a way as to create a killer vote. The idea is to punish the minority with the club they’ve given him by not reauthorizing during the session. Make an example of them once and they’ll never play chicken like that again. I would make House Democrats vote against that bill over and over and over and over again. I would literally call a special session every two days. I’d make them come to Jackson and then go back home and then come back to Jackson. Lather, rinse and repeat. If I were feeling especially evil, I would make sure that the air conditioning at the Capitol is not working.
Dominate the media, talk directly to the voters, use robocalls and send direct mail directly into House Democrat (and even House Republicans not toeing the line) districts and literally horsewhip them into submission. As an added bonus, you’d be on the right side of the issue. Publicly dare them to vote against 600,000 poor Mississippians and see if they have the guts and the votes to do it. Over and over and over again. Democrats who repeatedly vote against Medicaid reauthorization would at the very least invite a whole new cadre of primary opponents for 2015. Force incumbents to spend big money defending seats all for a loser of a political issue. Inevitably new members replacing old members would result in less seniority and less leadership in Democratic ranks.
I’ll recap the session soon, but on balance, this one has been a winner for Republicans. Charter schools, K-12 funding, pre-K pilot programs, a workable bond bill and a good budget have all been the results of Republican leadership generally playing nice. That’s a good thing. It’s a legacy to build on.
Having Democrats thwart their base by repeatedly voting against Medicaid should be the icing on the cake. Republicans should throw a party . . . and then eat the cake.