With 1 Day Left, Virginia Lawmakers Nearing Historic Budget Stalemate over Medicaid

March 7, 2014

With two days to go before they are supposed to leave town, House Republicans and Gov. Terry McAuliffe showed no signs Thursday of budging in their standoff over expanding Medicaid, bringing Virginia closer to a historic budget stalemate.

McAuliffe (D) continued making his case on behalf of expansion, accusing Republican opponents of ignoring those Virginians who stand to benefit the most from the program. Recounting wrenching stories from a tour of a health clinic in rural Wise County, the governor said: “Folks, this is about life and death. It is not a partisan political game.”

House Republicans countered by questioning what they described as the governor’s highly political rhetoric.

“This is nothing more than political posturing on his part,” said Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

House leaders also voted to extend the legislative session for 30 days, setting a firm deadline to resolve the Medicaid impasse. They also want to pass the state budget before moving on to the Medicaid question. But both ideas were rejected by the Senate, where a bipartisan majority supports expanding the federal health program for the poor — and where inclusion of the proposal in the state budget is viewed as a major leverage point.

It remains unclear who will blink first and what a final agreement might look like — and whether McAuliffe and lawmakers will pass a budget in time to avoid a shutdown of government services. Although the General Assembly has until the eve of July 1 to avert a shutdown, a major delay in negotiations could gum up local governments and school districts that depend on an early glimpse of the details to plan their spending for the coming year.

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