In it, but not of it. TPM DC

You Won't Believe What It's Taken To Save Obamacare In Arkansas

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But it took a helluva lot to get here.

The Arkansas Times tracked the madness over the last three days. It started Tuesday as the House prepared to take the initial vote.

First, Democratic lawmakers threatened to hold out their votes unless a major insurance company pledged to increase reimbursement rates for specialist doctors. The insurer gave, resulting in a raise for specialists and a small cut for primary physicians.

They came around on that initial vote, but a number of Republican lawmakers held out and the funding bill failed Tuesday. To pick up some of those critical votes, a few provisions -- including one that blocked state spending for outreach to help Obamacare enrollment -- had been added to the bill.

Obamacare supporters didn't seem to mind if it took a little pork to get the bill through. “It helped," Beebe said. "If it takes 75 votes, it’s worth it if he's the seventy-fifth vote.”

It wasn't yet enough. The bill failed in the House again Wednesday. The reason, it seems, is House members didn't want to be seen as the ones taking the first step toward approving Obamacare, preferring to leave that responsibility to the Senate. One lawmaker told the Times that Rep. Terry Rice (R), who is challenging Sen. Bruce Holland (R) in a primary, wanted to ensure that Holland voted in favor of Obamacare before he took his own opposing vote.

The Senate finally took the bill up Thursday. To get the necessary votes, following a special election that momentarily gave right-wingers enough clout to block the Medicaid funding, Beebe and Senate leaders had to give Sen. Jane English (R) a commitment about how $15 million in workforce training funding would be spent, funneling it to job training at two-year community colleges.

Asked if she actually supported the key Obamacare provision, English said: "Not really."

"But sometimes you have to look at how do you do something bigger and better," she said, touting that her job training funding should help people get off Medicaid.

She voted in favor and the funding bill cleared the Senate.

So that should have been it, right? Wrong.

Under the Arkansas Constitution, according to the Times, the two legislative chambers can't vote on the same bill on the same day. So the House had to wait until Friday to take the final vote on the Senate bill that should allow funding for the Medicaid expansion to continue.

Anything could happen, but the Times's sources say that the votes should be there, with enough House members assuaged by the various amendments and the Senate's willingness to go first to give Obamacare their support.

But it certainly wasn't easy getting here.

Image: Shutterstock/mnapoli

About The Author

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Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.