Republican rift in the Senate; private option a factor | Arkansas Blog

Republican rift in the Senate; private option a factor

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SEN. STUBBLEFIELD: A challenge for leadership.
  • SEN. STUBBLEFIELD: A challenge for leadership.
Twitter broke out with news yesterday that Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch intended to challenge Sen. Jonathan Dismang's election as the next Senate president pro tempore.

It can't happen unless Stubblefield can convince a majority of the soon-to-be 24 Republican senators to agree first to a rule that the vote on leadership preference within the GOP caucus requires unanimous support for the preferred leader in the actual vote in which the Democratic senators are included.

I don't see that happening. Yet. Plus, the secret ballot makes such a rule difficult to enforce.

Stubblefield reportedly has beefs with Dismang's hiring of a former Beebe aide on Senate staff and possible plans to give Joint Budget chairmanship to Democratic Sen. Larry Teague, who facilitated bipartisan power sharing back in the day when the the chamber was first moving from Democratic to Republican control. Given the new numbers, Stubblefield (and likely others) seems to believe the time for bipartisan considerations are over.

This division illustrates a more important issue than staff jobs. That is the tension between the anti-Obamacare and pro-Obamacare voters in the legislature. Dismang was part of the bipartisan majority that approved the private option Medicaid expansion financed by Obamacare federal dollars. Stubblefield was one of eight bitter enders in the fight that got just the 27 votes required for passage. Four professed opponents have been elected to seats that had been held by supporters, so things have gotten tricky in the Senate. 

Dismang has already said he doesn't see the private option being reauthorized as is. Of course not, if past votes and new members mean 12 opponents for starters and perhaps other previous supporters antsy after an election in which Obama was the magic word in the Republican sweep. 27 votes are thought to be needed, though the Dumas Option offers alternatives — a majority vote in one scenario, or no vote at all.

The question is whether "tweaks" necessary for passage are just window dressing or a substantive alteration of a plan that has put more than 200,000 people under insurance coverage.

The new cliche: What will Asa Hutchinson do? The rising governor's need for the Obamacare money is acknowledged by all in his inner circle. Without it, tax cuts, incarceration of more criminals and lots more become impossible.

There's some method in Stubblefield's madness. Squeaky wheels do sometimes get greased.

He's no opinion leader, and he's not even a senator, but I still was interested in the reaction to Stubblefield's move by Rep. Justin Harris, who's out there on the extreme end of the Republican spectrum. He commented: "I'm opposed 2 coups just like I was the last time!“ An alliance that upended Rep. Terry Rice's ascension to House speaker in favor of Davy Carter had many repercussions, though it also produced House passage of the private option. Rice is one of the new Senate arrivals replacing a private option voter, but he's moderated his comments on the plan now that the personal conflict with Carter is no longer a factor.


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