Republicans in Virginia have reportedly persuaded state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D) to resign and accept a prestigious job offer, giving the GOP a slim majority in the state Senate that would allow it to block Medicaid expansion.
Puckett is expected to announce his resignation Monday, The Washington Post reported. Three people familiar with the plan told the Post that Puckett would accept a job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission, while his daughter would be on track for appointment to a judgeship.
Puckett’s resignation would give Republicans a 20-19 advantage in the state Senate. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was counting on Senate support for Medicaid expansion, as the Republican-controlled House of Delegates has remained opposed to it.
McAuliffe said in a statement that Puckett’s resignation created “uncertainty” for his plan to expand Medicaid.
“I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia,” the governor said, as quoted by the Post. “This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.”
Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R), the chairman of the state tobacco commission, disputed that Puckett was resigning in exchange for the deputy director position while acknowledging that Puckett’s resignation made him available for the job.
“If he’s available, we would like to have him because of his knowledge of the area, and he formerly was on the tobacco commission for years, and he knew what we’re about,” Kilgore told the Post.
Puckett did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.
This post has been updated.