They didn’t just fail to vote. They failed the people they were elected to represent.
I’m sick, absolutely sick to my stomach that Republicans in the Michigan Senate refused to hold an up or down vote on Medicaid expansion before adjourning for a two-month recess.
Good thing I’m not one of the hundreds of thousands of residents who were counting on Medicaid expansion to keep them healthy, or maybe even find a job created by the expansion.
I said weeks ago that failure to act on Medicaid expansion was legislative malpractice, and Michigan Senate Republicans seem determined to kill the patient. Which they essentially did — potentially thousands of them — by failing to act.
Yes, I’m angry, because this was nothing but pure gamesmanship and political posturing. The House was able to find bipartisan agreement and pass a bill to expand Medicaid last week. Then the Senate used every stalling tactic in the book to keep pushing back this vote, knowing they were headed into summer recess.
Chris Gautz of Crain’s Detroit Business wrote a good summary of how it all went down today — including Governor Rick Snyder’s excoriation of Senate Republicans for not holding a vote. I urge you to read it.
But as I’ve been watching events transpire the last few days, I kept asking myself this question: Who exactly is running Michigan’s legislature? Is it the leaders who were elected to do so? Or is it the citizen bullies of the Michigan Tea Party?
I have seen a flood of emails in the last few days in which Tea Party activists urged supporters to call their Senators to urge a no vote, and then to call on Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville not to hold a vote at all.
And that’s exactly what happened. Sen. Richardville declined to hold a vote, citing the “unwritten rule” that the Senate doesn’t vote on anything that doesn’t have the support of half the Republican caucus. That hasn’t stopped them before.
Then, when the Senate adjourned without voting, Sen. Richardville issued a statement saying, in part:
The debate and discussion regarding reforming Medicaid in Michigan is not over. Members of my caucus have been working hard to improve upon something that was hoisted upon us by a federal government that had very little consideration for the impact of this program on the taxpayers of Michigan.
We owe it to our neighbors and communities to thoroughly review this issue and consider alternatives to the current proposal.
The legislation will be referred to committee and a legislative workgroup will spend the summer reviewing the current legislation and proposals offered by my colleagues that seek to improve upon the tremendous work that has already been done.
What a sorry excuse for inaction. The Senate has had ample time to consider Medicaid expansion, including the new bill approved by the House. Not to mention the hypocrisy of Michigan Republicans saying they need more time to decide on anything after pushing through legislation like Right To Work (For Less) with nary a moment’s hesitation.
Either the Senate Republicans were afraid there were enough votes to pass Medicaid expansion or they are afraid of their Tea Party supporters. Either way, not voting was an act of cowardice with the potential to hurt Michigan citizens and our economy, by turning down needed funding and the potential for billions in revenue.
After the Senate adjourned for recess, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Witmer had this to say:
“I’ve seen a lot of disappointing things happen here in the Legislature, but today I’m absolutely disgusted to see my Republican colleagues walk away from their jobs for the summer without taking action on something as critical to the well-being of our state and our families as Medicaid expansion. We had an opportunity in front of us to provide health care access to nearly half a million Michigan residents and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in the process, but apparently Republicans are going to allow the Tea Party agenda to get in the way of doing the right thing. It’s disgraceful.
Senator Vincent Gregory was equally outraged:
I have been calling for action on Medicaid expansion in Michigan since last November and have redoubled my efforts this legislative session, pushing to incorporate Medicaid expansion into this year’s budget. The Senate Republican Majority’s failure to take up this legislation is a blatant betrayal of both their civic duty and fiscal responsibility as public servants. It’s completely appalling that they feel justified in taking a summer vacation after again botching this opportunity to secure vital federal funding and extend health care coverage to nearly half a million Michigan residents in need.
Gov. Snyder has called on Michigan residents to bang the drum loudly in support of Medicaid expansion. He says it’s not over. Sen. Richardville says it’s not over.
I hope it’s not over, and I’m sure the countless citizens, businesses and healthcare professionals calling for Medicaid expansion hope it’s not over, either. There is still time to fight, and fight we will.
But right now, Senate Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. They didn’t have the guts to vote on an issue that would make a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Michigan families. Either because they knew they’d lose the vote or they feared losing votes in the next election.
What the Senate Republicans don’t seem to get is that they’re not the ones with anything to lose. Not until the next election, anyway.
[Photo credit: Chris Savage | Eclectablog]