“Outright Bribery” in the Old Dominion

The top political story in Virginia today is not the possibility of a cycle-defining upset of Eric Cantor in the 7th congressional district primary, but instead the continuing war over Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s efforts to accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. The latest twist is best defined by this lede from Ryan Grim and Ashley Alman at Huffpost:

The Republican Party in Virginia has resorted to what appears to be outright bribery in its ongoing effort to deny low-income residents in the state access to the Medicaid expansion authorized by Obamacare.

The Washington Post is reporting that Republicans offered to move Democratic state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett and his daughter into prestigious jobs in exchange for Puckett’s resignation, which will flip the chamber into Republican hands. Puckett will officially accept the offer on Monday, the paper reported.

It was quite the neat two-cushion shot by VA Republicans, according to the WaPo account from Laura Vozzella. Puckett’s daughter’s judicial gig was being blocked by the Senate based on a long-standing policy against confirmation of judges who are related to “active legislators.” So Puckett will resign, giving GOPers a majority in the Senate while clearing the way for his daughter’s confirmation, and not so coincidentally, he’s being slated for a potentially very cushy spot on the state commission that gets to spend tobacco settlement money. On top of everything else, Puckett’s SW VA district is likely to go Republican if it’s filled by a special election.

All this skullduggery represents a chess move that gives GOPers additional leverage over McAuliffe, who must know decide whether to risk a government shutdown by vetoing a Republican-engineered state budget that doesn’t include the Medicaid expansion. He’s got several Republican legislators on his side on the Medicaid issue, but it’s not clear if they’ll go along with the budget veto and shutdown.

The very big picture here is that Virginia represents another counter-example to the CW that Republicans are in the process of going along with the Medicaid expansion after a brief period of defiance. Indeed, in the Old Dominion they are going to extraordinary lengths to prevent the federal government from paying for access to health insurance for 400,000 of their fellow-citizens.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.