Michigan Republicans, Obamacare, Tea Party — August 27, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Michigan Senator Patrick Colbeck holds Medicaid expansion hostage


He must be on one heck of a power trip, fueled by hot air and tea bags.

Michiganders who support Medicaid expansion — and that’s a majority, by most accounts — have been waiting all day for a vote in the Senate on Medicaid expansion. As of this writing, they’re still waiting.

After hours of deliberation, one vote went down swiftly. An alternative plan proposed by Sen. Bruce Caswell, which would have essentially eliminated Medicaid altogether and cost Michigan far more than Medicaid expansion, failed spectacularly, by a vote of 9-29.

Finally, after a lengthy “short” recess, the Senate got to the real thing: HB 4714, the Medicaid expansion bill passed by the House months ago. Sen. Patrick Colbeck, whose own alternative bill was not voted on today, said he’d be a “nay” vote but instead abstained from voting, resulting in a final vote count of 19-18. Not the 20 votes needed to pass.

What’s more, Colbeck’s sneaky move, although a technically legitimate Parliamentary procedure, prevented a 19-19 tie that Lt. Gov. Brian Calley had promised to break to pass Medicaid expansion and provide health insurance to nearly 500,000 low-income Michiganders, mostly the working poor, veterans, seniors and children.

Sen. Colbeck stated during the floor debate on HB 4714 that he considered the bill “morally reprehensible.” I, for one, consider Sen. Colbeck’s actions beyond morally reprehensible. I find them spiteful, heartless and cruel. His opposition is purely ideological: he stated in no uncertain terms that he won’t vote for anything that has to do with Obamacare — even though fellow Senate Republicans reminded him that HB 4714 has been tailored specifically to Michigan, distancing it significantly from Obamacare.

I’d like to know how Sen. Colbeck plans to justify what amounts to a punishment of the working poor, people who are working two or three part-time jobs, or full-time jobs that don’t provide health insurance. Even more important, how can this man who has sworn to act in the best interests of his constituents play political games with people’s lives, given that an estimated 1,200 Michiganders will die every year if Medicaid expansion doesn’t pass? Yet he considers providing healthcare coverage to the working poor “morally reprehensible.”

The Senate GOP returned from caucus to the chamber and, as of this posting, is back in caucus. There’s no word yet on when a reconsideration vote might happen. It could be tonight. It could be tomorrow. It could be never — if Sen. Colbeck and the Tea Party extremists who own him have their way. Sen. Colbeck and his cohorts in the Senate have certainly stalled long enough to prove they do not want this vote to pass.

The one bright spot is the Republican Senators who did the right thing for Michigan and voted yes on Medicaid expansion. They are to be commended.

I’ll keep posting on this as quickly as possible. In the meantime, there’s plenty of terrific reporting on this happening at the state and national level.

The world is watching. Let’s hope Michigan doesn’t become a laughingstock as a state that can be controlled by the Tea Party and the strings they’ve attached to a puppet like Sen. Colbeck.

[Image courtesy of the Michigan Nurses Association.]