The Arkansas Bully Boys — Rep. John Burris and Sens. David Sanders — met with Gov. Mike Beebe today on matters related to implementation of Obamacare in Arkansas. Republicans are driving the train because they provided enough votes to achieve the 75 percent vote necessary to receive Obamacare millions for expansion of Medicaid coverage in the state. (Democrats provided more votes in total, it's still worth remembering.)
Burris and Sanders have crowned themselves potentates of Arkansas. Executive agencies must comply with their demands or they'll let Republicans kill Medicaid expansion. Their current extortion is over preventing Planned Parenthood, a health delivery organization, from joining other agencies in receiving a tiny bit of federal money to employ outreach workers to help people navigate the new procedures for getting health coverage. Republicans don't want Planned Parenthood to get state contract money because the organization believes in abortion rights. That is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
No matter. The Republican Bully Boys and their apologists want peace in our time. Nothing for Planned Parenthood or the Bullies will pitch a screaming fit and it will be Planned Parenthood's fault if 250,000 poor Arkansans get screwed, not the bullies whose unconstitutional discrimination made it happen. At least that's how the Bullies' sycophants will spin it.
Beebe's spokesman Matt DeCample said legislators again made clear their "concerns." But he said, "No decision was reached. No deal was struck." He added that it was a "positive conversation," from the standpoint of an agreement by all in the meeting (if not by a number of Republican legislators) that Obamacare expansion should move foward.
DeCample said neither the governor nor any representative of his had reached out to Planned Parenthood to try to get it to stand down on its application to participate with full rights of citizenship in the state contract process. He also said the office had not yet considered the legal ramifications of denying the organization's participation on account of its political beliefs.
I spoke briefly earlier in the afternoon with Jay Bradford, the Insurance commissioner. He gave no hint of where this was headed, though he said a decision could be expected soon on whether or not he'd approve Planned Parenthood's participation. Approval would certainly draw an unfavorable vote from a Republican-majority legislative review committee. The committee doesn't have technical power to deny state contracts, but the review process has generally functioned that way as a practical matter.
I'm guessing Bradford will ultimately take the fall. No question in my mind where his heart is on this issue — a qualified organization should participate if it agrees to all relevant terms. But if I were betting, I'd bet PP will be thrown under the bus with the administration hoping PP won't make a federal case out of it.
If anyone believes appeasement on this tantrum will discourage future annexations of executive prerogative by the Bully Boys, they need to read some history