You’d think from what we’re hearing this week from Republicans all over the country that Joseph Lieberman is indeed the Bush Lite politician that his Democratic detractors insist he is. Virtually every major national Republican pol has weighed in with crocodile tears for Lieberman’s narrow primary loss. And in a really odd development, Senate Republican candidates have begun endorsing Lieberman’s indie run in Connecticut. I can’t imagine that these hugs and kisses are any more welcome in Liebermanland than was Bush’s famous “kiss” at State of the Union Address. It’s not like Joe needs Republican help in Connecticut; in the absence of a viable GOP candidate in the race, there’s not a whole lot of doubt that Nutmeg State Republicans would overwhelmingly prefer Lieberman over Lamont in November without any encouragement from on high. And all the love directed at the incumbent from national Republicans could seriously erode his support among Democrats and independents. But here’s what I really want to know: are all these national Republicans embracing Joe Lieberman willing to support anything he stands for other than his position on Iraq, which they claim crazy lefties have illegitimately targeted him for? Will they suddenly develop an interest in dealing with global climate change? Will they agree that labor laws need to be revised to make it easier for workers to organize unions? Are they on board with Lieberman’s ambitious proposal for a federally funded National Center for Cures to speed new medical treatments? Will they take a serious look at Joe’s 2004 tax proposal, that would have made income tax rates actually more progressive than they were before the Bush tax cuts? Will they push for a systematic attack on corporate subsidies in the federal budget and tax code? Not hardly. But don’t expect any honest disclosures that their professed Joemania is about as genuine as Meat Loaf’s vow of eternal love in the classic rock song Paradise by the Dashboard Lights. The GOP’s love for Lieberman is just for one night. And he should inform them to go home and grow up.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
March 24: The Republican Case Against Medicaid Expansion Continues to Crumble
There’s another turn in a story we’ve all been following for over a decade, so I wrote it up at New York:
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law 13 years ago, and the Medicaid expansion that was central to the law still hasn’t been implemented in all 50 states. But we are seeing steady, if extremely slow, progress in the effort to give people who can’t afford private insurance but don’t qualify for traditional Medicaid access to crucial health services. The U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the ACA also made Medicaid expansion optional for states. Twenty-four states accepted the expansion when it became fully available at the beginning of 2014, and that number has steadily expanded, with the most recent burst of forward momentum coming from ballot initiatives in red states like Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah. Now a 40th state is in the process of climbing on board: North Carolina. As the Associated Press reports, legislation is finally headed toward the desk of Governor Roy Cooper:
“A Medicaid expansion deal in North Carolina received final legislative approval on Thursday, capping a decade of debate over whether the closely politically divided state should accept the federal government’s coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income adults. …
“When Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a longtime expansion advocate, signs the bill, it should leave 10 states in the U.S. that haven’t adopted expansion. North Carolina has 2.9 million enrollees in traditional Medicaid coverage. Advocates have estimated that expansion could help 600,000 adults.”
So what changed? Basically, over time the fiscal arguments North Carolina Republicans used to oppose the expansion began sounding increasingly ridiculous, AP suggests:
“GOP legislators passed a law in 2013 specifically preventing a governor’s administration from seeking expansion without express approval by the General Assembly. But interest in expansion grew over the past year as lawmakers concluded that Congress was neither likely to repeal the law nor raise the low 10% state match that coverage requires.
“A financial sweetener contained in a COVID-19 recovery law means North Carolina also would get an estimated extra $1.75 billion in cash over two years if it expands Medicaid. Legislators hope to use much of that money on mental health services.”
In other words, the GOP Cassandras warning that the wily Democrats would cut funding for the expansion in Congress once states were hooked turned out to be absolutely wrong. Indeed, the very sweet deal offered in the original legislation got even sweeter thanks to the above-mentioned COVID legislation. States like North Carolina appeared to be leaving very good money on the table for no apparent reason other than partisanship, seasoned with some conservative hostility toward potential beneficiaries. In this case, GOP legislators finally reversed course without much excuse-making. The AP reports:
“A turning point came last May when Senate leader Phil Berger, a longtime expansion opponent, publicly explained his reversal, which was based largely on fiscal terms.
“In a news conference, Berger also described the situation faced by a single mother who didn’t make enough money to cover insurance for both her and her children, which he said meant that she would either end up in the emergency room or not get care. Expansion covers people who make too much money for conventional Medicaid but not enough to benefit from heavily subsidized private insurance.
“’We need coverage in North Carolina for the working poor,’ Berger said at the time.”
That, of course, has been true all along. Final legislative approval of the expansion was delayed for a while due to an unrelated dispute over health-facility regulations. And the expansion cannot proceed until a state budget is passed. But it’s finally looking good for Medicaid expansion in a place where Democrats and Republicans are bitterly at odds on a wide range of issues.
There remain ten states that have not yet expanded Medicaid; eight are Republican “trifecta” states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming) and two others have Republican-controlled legislatures (Kansas and Wisconsin). Perhaps the peculiar mix of stupidity and malice that keeps state lawmakers from using the money made available to them by Washington to help their own people will abate elsewhere soon.