by Max Brantley
Top of the morning.
* HOUSE ELECTS A SPEAKER: The climactic vote on Arkansas House leadership comes at midday today. The flow of information indicates that Davy Carter will overthrow the Republicans' earlier pick of Terry Rice to be the leader of the House in 2013, after it turns to a one-vote Republican majority. Democrat Darrin Williams, the current speaker designate, will be a historical footnote, rather than the first black speaker.
Two questions remain: Are all 48 Democrats, or a sufficient number along with the rump Republican movement that has begun for Carter, fully enlisted in the change in Republican direction? And, if they are, what are they getting for giving him the votes necessary to win? A third scenario is that Republicans will submit to the inevitable at a caucus this morning; Rice will withdraw his bid and all 51 Republicans will vote for Carter. That would leave Democrats depending on the kindness of Carter, who could say he didn't need their votes after all. Talk Business has an e-mail from House Republican leader Bruce Westerman, part of the Carter movement, urging unity.
Does the change signal a Medicaid deal in the making? It seems a possibility. More and more Republicans are signaling a willingness to deal, an attitude noticeably absent during the campaign season, when opposition to Obama, Obamacare, health exchanges, Medicaid expansion and even more money for the current Medicaid program was rigid and absolute. Now that nursing home patients are at risk, Republicans are suddenly open to finding a way to avoid that. They are open to Medicaid "waivers," a fig leaf under which the state has some flexibility on federal rules. At the end of the process, however, is the only true solution - $900 million more in federal dollars for a 20 percent increase in a $4.6 billion program. That would be good for Arkansas and good for its people. You will be asked not to remember all those Republicans who declared this would happen over their dead bodies. Gov. Mike Beebe is working in his usual non-confrontational manner to produce workable solutions. It could be his last great achievement. If done with a Republican majority legislature, it will be one worth boasting about.
NOTED BY NY TIMES: Republican-led states around the country experiencing "angst" as deadline arrives on committing to running health exchanges or letting the feds do it for them. The hard-core, such as Nate Bell of Arkansas, are cheerleading massive resistance. Mike Beebe has already committed Arkansas to a partnership approach because of rock-solid Republican legislative opposition. Florida and Virginia are surrendering. Sounds like even Wisconsin's Scott Walker may bow to the fact of Obama's victory and the inevitably of the law taking effect.
* REPUBLICANS DON'T WANT BLACK PEOPLE TO VOTE. How's this for a pattern:
1) Paul Ryan blames Republican loss on 'urban vote.'
2) Wisconsin legislator thinks vote fraud cost Republicans a victory in that state. Evidence? None. But heavy votes against Republicans in urban areas gave Democrats a big margin. The legislator wants voter ID laws in place to stop this.
Outgoing Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster plans to investigate claims that “dozens of black people” who were unfamiliar to municipal officials voted Nov. 6 in rural Maine towns.
Voting while black. It is suspicious on its face to Republicans, and not just in Maine. They want it stopped. The movement is afoot in Arkansas. Davy Carter, beloved though he is in some Democratic quarters, will NOT stand in the way of Bryan King's voter suppression aims. Yesterday, a Republican ideologue on the state Election Commission pressed for new policing activities by that board to go after presumed fraudulent voting, beginning with black-heavy East Arkansas. Thorough State Police investigations (which have produced results) are not enough for the ideologue, Stu Soffer. He wants jackboots and intimidation and investigations and he wants them NOW. A rare kind word for Secretary of State Mark Martin, who was reluctant to criticize the work of the board's staff and seemed to indicate deference should go first to the customary process of letting local officials and law enforcement do their jobs.
How unconstitutional will the Republican Voter ID bill be? That is the only pending question. And how quickly the lawsuit will be filed.
* MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT FROM ARKANSAS DIES: New York Times obit here on James L. Stone, a Pine Bluff native and UA alum, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading his men against an overwhelming Chinese attack in Korea.