Perils of Pauline: A handful of Republican zealots has the insurance industry and a significant chunk of the state budget tied to the railroad tracks. They'll let the train run over it unless they get their way on removing an appropriation (not spending) of federal money to implement federal health care reform as other states (led by Republicans) are doing.
Rep. Donna Hutchinson objects to being cast as a nut for her opposition. If we'd just let her have her way, everything would be fine, she insists. Sorry, Ms. Hutchinson. When the vote is 70-29, it confounds the traditional sense of democratic government and fairness to let the 29 call the shots, even if the Constitution allows it.
The House will vote again today, for a fourth time. Will the minority rule again? Will they shut down insurance in Arkansas and beggar pension funds? Will they get away with blaming it on the overwhelming majority? The melodrama continues.
UPDATE: Minority leader John Burris, who thought he had votes to pass Insurance appropriation yesterday, now indicates that the Republican minority opposition is firm and the Insurance Department appropriation cannot pass with inclusion of the health insurance exchange provision. Will Democrats blink? This is a dangerous road to travel. There isn't an agency of government that doesn't do things that you could rally minority opposition around to sabotage an appropriation bill. (Education doesn't fall under the 75 vote rule, thank goodness.)
This is a Tea Party national trend, by the way. And it's utterly nonsensical. The effect of this Tea Party initiative — to stop states from handling health care issues — does the very thing these wingnuts supposedly hate, Washington running everything.
UPDATE II: A compromise in the wind would provide for passage of the Insurance Department appropriation, but kill for this session the bill authorizing the department to move ahead with insurance exchange implementation.
UPDATE III: Davy Carter is twittering that a compromise has been reached. I expect it be along lines Roby Brock detailed. The health exchange planning bill will be killed for this session. The appropriation for the planning will remain in the Insurance Department bill. Republicans succeed in delaying the start of the exchanges themselves. Democrats, who have the majority (in numbers at least) to pass the bill eventually, say in a special session or next January, get to keep the money in place to do the exchanges eventually.
Further reflection: This is really kind of crazy. I now see what I'd been overlooking. Rep. Fred Allen's bill to authorize exchange implementation to begin — the one that will now go to interim study — had cleared House committee, but nothing more. It wasn't going to pass this session anyway, not having to go through a 4-4 split Senate committee should it actually pass the House. The fact that it hadn't come up suggests Allen wasn't sure he had the necessary Democratic votes. So everybody knew this. So why were a handful of Republicans willing to shut down the insurance industry in Arkansas when their goal had already been achieved? Bragging rights?