Maine Senate Republicans Floor Speeches Opposing LD 1546: “Washington Politics” and Mixed Messaging on Medicaid Expansion
(UPDATED: Links to more GOP floor speeches from the follow day’s second reading in the Senate are now found at the bottom of this original post. ~AP)
Originally, the intention was to simply share the various clips taken of the LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” floor debates in the Senate and House as stand-alone posts without comment. Then a funny thing happened: in reviewing them, a clear separation of messaging became apparent between the members of the GOP in the Senate and the Governor’s “Office Du Jour” (see: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo).
So, let’s take a look.
First Reading in the Senate, 5/20/13
Consistent GOP themes: LD 1546 is “Washington Politics”, “Welfare expansion”, myriad concerns over costs and having to hire either 83 new people (per Senator Mason) or 93 new people (per Senator Thibodeau) and general distrust of the federal government.
(Side note: If a business were to open in their district with 83-93 new jobs, Mason and Thibodeau would loudly cheer and claim “this was proof that Governor LePage’s policies work to help business.” Sigh…)
In short, everything Maine rejected from this party in the November election results.
So let’s go to the clips:
1. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin)
(:36) “… back room, Pelosi-style, Washington politics on full display, in the State House.”
(:50) “… LD 1066, (“An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”)is a massive welfare expansion that will cost Maine untold millions of dollars, not only over the next year, but over the life of the program.”
(2:20) “… welfare expansion“
(2:47) “… So, what is this bill? Well, it’s a massive welfare expansion, to seventy thousand people…”
Perhaps some of the greater moments of irony came at the 1:20 mark, when Senator Mason claimed that the bill’s creation and process was “rude and disrespectful” of the VLA Committee and then further comments (2:00) that LD 1546 “was ram-rodded through”.
Republicans also claimed that it would pay for Maine’s 133,000 uninsured citizens and lower insurance costs. Um- not so much.
2. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 1
“Linking these two bills together that have nothing to do with one another is just what people complain about when they see it happening in Washington. Unfortunately, that kind of strong-arm politics has migrated north.
Governor LePage is in the middle of negotiations with the federal government to try to get us a better deal on Medicaid expansion. Maybe he will be successful and maybe he won’t. But if he is, that could save the state tens of millions of dollars. If we say yes to Medicaid expansion now, we lose our negotiating leverage.”
An ongoing “negotiation” since last July that has gotten Maine nowhere… nor this past March, when the Governor demanded a ten year waiver rather than three- something no other state has been granted by the federal government. In fact, Maine is no closer that it was in February 2012. Not exactly working to close the deal but rather putting off as long as he can.
3. Senator James Hamper (Oxford)
Summary: Senator Hamper is concerned with the costs, especially in light of the reported DHHS shortfalls, inabilities to pay their bills past June 12th and budget projections for FY 14-15. Yet he urges that Maine not “rush through” with Medicaid expansion. Shame that the Governor thinks that “The Administration has not been entertained”– and is now putting an unilateral gag order onto any within his administration that would go before the Appropriations committee to speak regarding the proposed budget and that he and he alone will be the one to speak to the committee.
- (5:48) “Slow down.”
(6:00)“We’re saying, ‘Don’t play Washington politics‘…”
As Hamper concluded: “Fool me twice… shame on me.“
4. Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)
“Charlie Brown’s football being hauled away by Lucy”. Um, okay. Not even gonna touch this one.
5. Senator Brian Langley (Hancock)
Now here is where it gets interesting- until this point, all of the GOP lawmakers have been on the same page of “Washington politics” and together poo-pooed the idea of expanding Medicaid at all. But at the 0:45 mark, we hear this from Senator Langley, who urges the bill be separated, rather than simply voted down- a far different position than all of the other Republicans that have spoken before him:
- “… because I am not opposed to it. What I am opposed to is the way it is being done here today.”
Interesting… and contrary to what Governor LePage said when he vetoed LD 1546.
“Democrat leadership has spent the past week forcing this bill through the legislative process, over the objections of Republicans and Democrats alike. This unadulterated partisanship tied two different issues together in a quest to force welfare expansion upon the Maine people. I have said all along this bill would receive a veto when it reached my desk, so this letter should be no surprise.
That is why I have filed a Governor’s bill today reflecting the parts of LD 1546 we all agree on—paying the hospitals and ensuring the liquor business provides the best return for the state—without the forced expansion of MaineCare. The Legislature will have the opportunity to vote up or down to pay the hospitals—I trust you will do the right thing.”
6. Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)
Assistant Minority Leader Thibodeau, same as Rep. Ken Fredette would do later in the House, attempts to delay the vote with a series of procedural questions regarding the bill’s formation and combining of separate elements. Senate President, as Speaker of the House Eves would also do later in the session the next evening, explained his ruling. Thibodeau then speaks, first complaining on timelines elapsing in what he feels is a premature time frame, and then referring to items that the Democrats claimed were ramrodded through in the 125th Legislature.
He then quoted this PPH article penned by Maine Hospital Association president Steve Michaud:
“Medicaid expansion is a centerpiece of the federal Affordable Care Act. While hospitals support the Medicaid expansion, we vehemently disagree that the expansion should be tied in any way to whether or not the outstanding bills get paid. Hospitals don’t control whether MaineCare gets expanded; they shouldn’t be punished if the expansion fails.”
What he failed to read was the following paragraph by Michaud:
- “This kind of leveraging of one issue versus another issue is bad policymaking. It is a common tactic in Washington, D.C., and one of the hallmarks of its dysfunction.”
And at the 5:10 mark, Thibodeau echos the phrase “Washington style politics”.
Wait, five “Washingtons”? BINGO!!
Oh wait… one of them was from the PPH article. Maybe we’ll get lucky with the next speaker.
7. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 2
We already got Senator Katz down for a “Washington” mention. But we can add the good Senator from Kennebec as now a second supporter of Medicaid expansion! Note the 2:25 mark:
- “Personally speaking for myself, I have an open mind on the expansion.”
8. Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)
Well, well! Add another senator who thinks (0:40) that expanding Medicaid is a good thing! His issues are similar to Senator Langley’s in that he would prefer the bills be examined and worked upon separately.
9. Senator David Burns (Washington)
“Don’t be guilty of Washington politics.”
We even get a bonus, just to be sure (2:20)!
“…don’t get caught up in the process of Washingtonian politics.”
Okay, there it is. BINGO!
Second Day Floor Speeches