Awesome New GOP Strategy: Shut Down State Govts Over Obamacare

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What’s past is prologue: Obamacare could once again be the catalyst to a government shutdown, this time at the state level where legislators in Arkansas and Virginia are sparring over the law’s Medicaid expansion.

As TPM has reported, Arkansas lawmakers have been horse-trading to keep funding their privatized form of Medicaid expansion and the Virginia legislature has been debating adopting the provision for the first time, with the Senate and Democratic governor on one side and House Republicans on the other in both states.

Sound familiar? And if both sides refuse to budget, two state government shutdowns might be coming in the near future.

Talking to reporters Monday in Washington, where he’s been attending the National Governors Association’s annual meeting, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) acknowledged that a shutdown in Little Rock was a possibility. He conceded that the House, where the funding bill is currently stuck, is two votes short of the supermajority needed to approve the federal funding.

But he said he hoped that conservatives in the Arkansas House had learned a lesson from their colleagues in Congress and wouldn’t shut down the government over the health care reform law. For now, the state government is funded through June, but according to the Associated Press, lawmakers have warned that the impasse over Medicaid could stop the entire next year’s budget from passing.

“There’s no telling what kind of hardball somebody could play,” Beebe said. “I think last year the Republicans in Congress figured out they didn’t want to do that anymore.”

“I think the voting public would be very irritated with everybody. It’d be hard to figure out who they’re going to blame.”

In Virginia, the Senate has approved a form of Medicaid expansion similar to Arkansas’s and Gov. Terry McAuliffe has endorsed it. But conservatives in the House don’t want any part of it, taking a symbolic vote last week to voice their opposition.

Now the two chambers are going into a conference to resolve their budget differences, and, unless they break the deadlock over Medicaid, a shutdown is possible there as well, according to the Washington Post. The current session is supposed to end on March 8 and, as in Arkansas, June 30 marks the deadline for approving a new budget to fund the Virginia state government.

Already, Senate Democrats are warning that House conservatives could feel the heat — as the congressional GOP did during the federal shutdown — if they close the government’s doors over Obamacare.

“I think that’s the way it’s going to turn out unless they’re willing to make some concession and adopt most of our bill,” Sen. Charles Colgan Sr. (D) told the Post. When those Republicans head home during a deadlock, “what their constituents are saying is going to help them make up their mind.”

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