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Special Session Preview: The Unspoken Lie
By Stephen J. Rossie

Square2017 imageRICHMOND – The ironic and great — even purposefully — unsaid truth about the Republican divide over Obamacare Medicaid expansion is that the lie has been exposed over General Assembly Republicans’ unity over fiscal issues and small government. The only surprise is that it is the House that has staked out the obstinate position on growing the size of government and not the Senate.

GOP legislators, their staffs, consultants and establishment party leaders constantly tell conservative activists to pipe down on "divisive social issues,” such as life and marriage, because those issues cost votes, especially in vulnerable districts. They advise conservatives to focus on issues "that we can unite around” such as low taxes and limited government.

So, what's dividing the GOP right now? The budget — and whether to massively expand the size and scope of state government to unprecedented levels, the one issue on which conservatives supposedly are in philosophical lock step. That this means not all Republicans are conservatives has been obvious for years. But the dramatic turn of many GOP lawmakers who have previously held the line, particularly in the House, is shocking.

It’s a turn that has not only split General Assembly Republicans on an issue, it has morphed into sharp and even personal attacks on each other. When "social issues” have taken the spotlight in the past, there has been relative unanimity. Of course, there would be behind the scenes grumbling about getting put on the spot about "uncomfortable” votes, but generally speaking, House and Senate Republicans went green (the color of the "yes” voting button). The commotion came from the other side obligated to raise a stink from pressure by its rabid, baiting activists and stirred by the media.

The truth is that the biggest splits among General Assembly Republicans over the last several years have been about taxes and spending — the Warner tax increase, the Kaine tax and transportation plan and the McDonnell tax increase, not to mention House initiated nanny state laws over insurance regulation and smoking bans. But Obamacare Medicaid expansion is an all out intramural Republican mud fight destined to turn control of the legislature over to the Democrats in 2019 and consign the GOP to the political irrelevancy after the next redistricting.

Like any leader, Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) wanted to get out in front of what he thinks will be a contentious issue. But not sticking to five years of opposition, especially when the Senate had his back, is confounding. Proving that it is more than only nicking away an issue is that the so-called "savings” from Medicaid expansion are all spent in the House plan. Only in government can spending more lead to savings.

If Cox thinks a Democrat governor and near parity opposition in the House would pass it anyway, he should let them own the impending disaster. He may want to save the blushes of something he opposed from getting passed, but the fratricide he has caused is devastatingly worse.


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InBrief 13dec18

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