Sen. Bart Hester
, one of the leaders of the rump group of Republicans blocking the Medicaid budget to try to end the private option, said that he will vote for Medical Services appropriation if an amendment is attached that kills "Arkansas Works," the governor's plan to continue the private option Medicaid expansion. This despite the fact that the governor plans to line-item veto the amendment, allowing the Medicaid expansion to continue.
"The question is would I vote for a bill that I asked for?" Hester said. "The answer to that would be yes. I don't know what the governor will choose to do at that point. You sit down here and you fight for something and they offer it to you, the answer would be yes, from my perspective."
I noted that the governor would likely line-item veto the amendment killing "Arkansas Works" and that the Medicaid expansion would continue. "I'm not the governor," Hester said. "There's only one person that's the governor. I don't know how you don't vote for the bill that you asked for. At the end of the day, the governor has the right to veto anything, always. That's his prerogative and that's why he's the governor."
Sen. Blake Johnson
, another member of the Tea Party Ten, said that he would do the same. "It's what we'd asked for," Johnson said. Of the line item veto, he said, "that's up to the governor. That's beyond my control."
If you're scoring at home, that means that there are enough votes to pass the Medicaid budget — and then save the Medicaid expansion via the governor's line item veto.
There will likely be a handful of senators from the Ten that join Hester and Johnson. From those I've managed to track down so far:
Sen. Cecile Bledsoe
said she was undecided and didn't want to comment until she had seen the actual amendment. Sen. Missy Irvin
said that she wanted to "slow down." Sen. Scott Flippo
declined to comment. Sen. Alan Clark
said that he would vote against the appropriation even though it had the amendment they wanted due to the fact that the governor would veto it. Sen. Bryan King
said that he didn't know precisely what would come out of Joint Budget said he was for "taking more time ... this bill should be voted on later in the session." He said the appropriation was being "rammed through." Still waiting on word from the other three: Stubblefield, Collins-Smith, and Rice.
However, some in the Democratic caucus say they want more time to consider this procedural maneuver. That could be risky, as the Ten will be facing heavy pressure from groups like AFP in the coming days to refuse to go along with the governor's plan.
Support for special health care reporting made possible by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.