(UPDATES) All over but the grandstanding: Liveblog of House debate on Medicaid budget | Arkansas Blog

(UPDATES) All over but the grandstanding: Liveblog of House debate on Medicaid budget


LAST GASP: Aginners have one last chance to rage.
  • LAST GASP: Aginners have one last chance to rage.

Update: as expected, it passed, 76-13-11. More here

GRANDSTANDING BEGINS (refresh this post for updates)

Rep. Kim Hendren spoke against the bill. Hendren said he would vote for the bill if he had to be the seventy-fifth vote, but otherwise would vote against it. "That is no way to be a member of the Arkansas legislature," he said, even though that's what he's doing. He said that that the Special Language committee was "the most nefarious committee." Hendren's son, Sen. Jim Hendren is a sponsor of "Arkansas Works," the plan to continue Medicaid expansion. Hendren read aloud an email he had written to his son very early in the morning last Friday. He also read his son's response. It's all in the family. 

The minutes feel like hours when Kim Hendren speaks. "My no does not mean no and my yes does not mean yes," Hendren said, and then read from the AFP letter on scoring the vote. Said Hendren, "When we start doing the right thing in the wrong way, it confuses me and everybody else." He said the procedural wrangling was a bad precedent. 

Rep. Laurie Rushing spoke for the bill. She said she opposed "Arkansas Works" but she would not shut down the entire Medicaid program in order get her way on one program. She said she appreciated that the weird procedural trick to pass the appropriation because it allowed her to vote for what she wanted. Yes, she knows the governor will veto it. "He is willing to take that burden on himself," she said.

"Most all of us are guilty of playing some political game," Rushing added. Referring to the AFP scoring, she said, "don't be intimidated by those emails."

Rep. Robin Lundstrum spoke against the bill. "Today is a day of choosing," she said, ripping off a Reagan line. She then made arguments that so stale that you could hear the yawns throughout the gallery. She said Arkansas was becoming "a welfare state." She said "we are taking a step toward the march toward federal control and government expansion." 

Rep. Kim Hammer spoke for the bill. Hammer helpfully pointed out that no one is going to change anyone's mind. He nevertheless gave a rambling speech. He said he didn't "give a rip" about email's like AFP's. 

Rep. Nate Bell spoke against the bill. He said that the decisions the legislature makes have impacts for centuries. He said he was leaning toward voting Yes on the appropriation on the merits, but he doesn't like the procedural rigmarole, despite his respect for the governor and Senate and House leadership. He noted that the Affordable Care Act itself was passed via some procedural rigmarole. 


Unless there's a last-minute surprise at the Capitol (always a possibility), the House will today pass the Medicaid budget and the governor will sign it into law. Thanks to some procedural wrangling, this will continue the private option Medicaid expansion, funded by Obamacare

As of now, all indications are that Democrats will vote en masse to approve the appropriation. A rapidly shrinking rump group of Republican obstructionists will offer up last-gasp No votes. The appropriation needs 75 votes. I'd put the over/under at 79. 

Expect some fireworks from the dead-end aginners, who typically use the occasion of their final defeat to offer up bizarre speeches. There may be strong words from Democrats as well — on the value of the program and the destructiveness of obstructionist Republicans who threatened a government shutdown. Some Democrats may also criticize the procedural shenanigans. 

The House convenes at 1:30. You can watch the livestream here.

Support for special health care reporting made possible by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. 

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