How Terry McAuliffe failed to impose Medicaid expansion on Virginia.

This Washington Post article on Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe’s futile attempt to sneak Medicaid expansion past his own state legislature is fascinating, but it has several flaws in it.  There are things that are not mentioned enough, things that are mentioned too much, and at least one thing that is not mentioned at all.  Unsurprising, given that the WaPo remains a Democratic cheerleader; but still slightly disappointing.

Quick summary of the article: at the beginning of the saga, Terry McAuliffe was faced with a barely Democratic state Senate and a solidly Republican General Assembly.  This meant that if Gov. McAuliffe wanted to get Medicaid expansion through the legislature, he’d need to sweet-talk the Republicans into going along – HAH!  Who am I kidding?  Nah, his team of trained legislation-breakers found a suitable loophole, in classic Democratic party fashion* – and snuck it into the budget.  Alas, Democrat state Senator Phillip Puckett was made a deal (which apparently had nothing to do with any of this) that flipped the state Senate (despite the frantic deal-making efforts of every Virginia Democrat from McAuliffe on down); that, coupled with conservative watchdogs and [mc_name name=’Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001046′ ]’s remarkable primary loss, scuppered the inclusion of language in the Virginia budget that would have permitted said loophole.  Sic transit gloria McAuliffe.

It’s all very droll, despite the best efforts of the WaPo to spin otherwise.  Now, on to the problems with the article.  I was going to bullet point it, but the real problem with this article is that it concentrates too much on the Puckett deal – which may or may not be actually illegal, and which may or may not suck in both the Republicans and Democrats that were involved in it**.  The real story here?  Why Terry McAuliffe thought that it was necessary to pull this stunt at all.

Seriously.  As you may recall, Terry McAuliffe campaigned on Medicaid expansion, and the budget be damned.  But it wouldn’t come to that, because Gov. McAuliffe knew how to make deals! …Only he couldn’t make a deal on this (more on that in a second), so he abandoned that tactic and went looking for a cheat code.  That he found one should shock nobody; and while it is fascinating that picayune political maneuverings managed to sidetrack anti-poor policies*** the real issue here should be why McAuliffe didn’t do what he campaigned on doing.

Because the budget passed without Medicaid expansion.  And despite the best efforts of Terry McAuliffe, who in the end is a creature of his time and faction (Clintonian, in both cases). Gov. McAuliffe comes from a more corrupt era, when you could always find a legal bribe for a recalcitrant colleague. That he is having difficulty adapting to this harder-edged, more consciously ideological time should come as no surprise.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*One potent argument for having fewer laws is that doing so also means that you have fewer opportunities to warp those laws beyond all recognition.  This is simply better for people’s souls.

**The trouble here for people who would like to make partisan hay of this (or people who just don’t like deal-making) is that once you start arresting people for what happened you’re going to end up with a jail bipartisanly full of state politicians (including the governor) and maybe a US Senator.  I know, I know: feature, not a bug.  The state politicians have a different opinion on the matter, starting with the Governor (who would be apparently right there in with the rest of them).

***Expanding Medicaid coverage is the perfect progressive activist position: it locks voters into a position where they’re dependent on substandard government care; it superficially looks like the problem has been solved; and the activists can claim that anybody who notes the first two points is a dirty filthy bigot. Sure, progressive activists will do the last bit anyway, but they always like to have their bad behaviors enabled.