by Max Brantley
Also, Republican House Speaker Davy Carter, who's resting the success of his speakership and perhaps future political races on successfully seeing the Medicaid expansion plan to approval, also had thoughts after the vote that mirrored Beebe's. Carter's influence is, in some ways, as problematic as Beebe's. Only 14 of the 51 House Republicans voted for the enabling bill. Carter was elected speaker mostly by Democrats over Rep. Terry Rice, who'd expected to have the job. Rice and some allies, including Les Carnine, Robert Dale, Gary Deffenbaugh and Jonathan Barnett, are, in the Republican context, somewhat moderate sorts. They're the kind of people who've worked with Beebe in the past. But the personal matter in the Rice-Carter election race looms large in whether any of them can be drawn into the dozen or so needed for victory. Rep. John Burris, who's leading the Republican fight for the bill, isn't beloved by the Rice faction, either, because he backed Carter's election.
David Ramsey reports on the Beebe-Carter reactions:
DELAY APPROPRIATION VOTE, ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR FRIDAY?
BEEBE: "Those are decisions made by the leadership in the House and Senate. I think they're going to vote it tomorrow and I think they should. There's a lot more support for the appropriation bill than 62. It's close, that's all I know."
CARTER: "That's the plan [vote tomorrow]. I always reserve the right to change my mind, but that's the plan." He elaborated
"I am going to spend some time this evening reaching out to those members to hear those concerns one on one. That will certainly be taken into consideration. Depending on how widespread that is. I've heard that we are rushing this, that's not the intent here. I said yesterday, we've spent hundreds and hundreds of hours and we've got a week left in the session. There are other things that have to be done....We've got business to wind down here. But I'm going to reach out to the members and see how widespread that concern is and I'll make a call in the morning."
BEEBE: "You've heard that from some people and that's a heck of an argument. The argument is not that this is bad, the argument is not that we shouldn't do this, the argument is not that they don't believe in it. The argument is their people don't understand it and they want to go home and explain it to them. That's fine, explain it to your people but why do you have to go home for 3 weeks to explain it?"
CARTER: "That's not being considered. That's not an option."
IF APPROPRIATION DOESN'T GO THROUGH IN THE NEXT WEEK, WHAT ABOUT SPECIAL SESSION AS PLAN B?
BEEBE: "No. Special sessions are costly and usually should be for emergencies, stuff that comes up that you haven't been able to take care of, that you didn't have an opportunity to take care of because you didn't know about it. They know about this. Let's take care of it. There's no excuse, there's no reason to call a special session. There won't be anything new."
CARTER: "It will get through the first time."
ARE TAX CUTS IN JEOPARDY IF MEDICAID FAILS?
CARTER: "I wouldn't say that. All this stuff is kind of intertwined at this point. I think the reality is with the private option, the money the state's going to save is going to allow more tax relief. That's two good things."
KEY ARGUMENT NOT MENTIONED IN DEBATE
BEEBE: "One point that probably hasn't been made loud enough is how much this saves our businesses if this passes because they don't get the federal penalty. $30+ million a year is going to [be saved by] Arkansas businesses that don't have to pay the Obama penalty because these people would now be covered and it wouldn't be responsibility to be paid by our businesses. Pretty heck of a good point. But you still need 13 votes. We had several folks that say that it's the right thing to do and they supported the bill but they voted against it today so there's a start at least."
Since every single vote counts, what Republican Rep. Nate Bell has to say carries more weight than it normally does. He's said to be a likely aye vote, but demanding a weekend delay. I think he hopes to heck he doesn't have to vote aye because his wife works for the Koch Bros. political organization, Americans for Prosperity. Vote against his wife's employer?
Several members said they were leaning YES on Monday but would vote NO tomorrow because they needed time to explain bill to constituents this weekend. Here's Bell:
"We've been fighting for [more time] for a week. We've asked for the opportunity to go visit with our constituents. The vote today was pushed before....I think there would have been quite a few more votes had we had the opportunity to do that. I generally support the bill, but just not prepared to sit there and punch a button when my constituents are emailing and calling, and saying 'hey, we don't understand what you're doing, can you come talk to us?' And I can't leave here. Saturday I've got a townhall scheduled, I'm going to sit down with them and have that conversation. I want feedback from the folks I work for. I don't work for anybody in this building, I work for them. Unfortunately we're being asked to make a decision on a bill that we have not had the opportunity to carry home to our people."
"If that appropriation runs tomorrow, I think it almost definitely fails. I see virtually no chance of it passing tomorrow. We've asked to please hold it until Monday. At this point I'm a little upset that I'm being put in a position of having to cast a vote against a bill that I'm mostly likely for...I have a set of facts that I've been given but I have not had an opportunity to discuss those facts with the people I work for."
"I'm upset with the process not the bill, I generally feel that the bill is the right choice."