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Democrats in the Virginia state Senate are making the best use of the fact that they have half the seats in the chamber, even though they're in the minority in full legislature. They're hanging tough on approving Gov. Bob McDonnell's budget in return for Medicaid expansion.
Democrats were emboldened in this effort after a controversial attempt by Senate Republicans to jam a mid-decade gerrymandering plan through the state legislature on the day of President Obama’s second inauguration. That effort failed in the House earlier this week, but only after Democrats had coalesced around a plan to use the state budget as leverage to expedite the Medicaid expansion.
So far that plan has proved effective. On Thursday, the Virginia Senate amended its budget to include a provision green lighting the expansion, while the state simultaneously works to implement federally-approved cost control measures for the program. The budget passed overwhelmingly.
That vote approving the budget was 36-4. Now the Democrats have to be able to repeat that in the House, where their budget proposal would eventually expand Medicaid, conditional on getting federal approval to make program changes, something that the Department of Health and Human Services isn't providing much leeway for.
So here's a case of Democrats taking a policy hostage, and doing it for good policy. U.S. House Democrats could take a lesson or two from them, now that they'll be critical for passing any legislation in that dysfunctional body.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 11:10 AM PST.