Jan Brewer Rips Arizona GOP Apart Over Medicaid Expansion - Updated

up

Whatever else Jan Brewer is, no one can say she isn't hard-nosed and calculating. When she decided the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act was good for Arizona, she also decided to steamroll the Tea Party, forging a strong bipartisan coalition while sending the extremists to a dark, dusty corner.

First, she threatened a veto of every single bill sent to her by the legislature until they approved the Medicaid expansion. They thought she was joking, so they sent up five bills, and Brewer returned five vetoes.

Then things got very interesting.

Brewer’s surprise move came after House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, adjourned the lower chamber until Thursday, stalling efforts by a bipartisan House coalition to pass Brewer’s 2014 budget and Medicaid expansion.

Many legislators were on their way home when Brewer called key lawmakers to a meeting in her offices, where the special-session plans were hatched. They agreed to unseat the speaker and Senate president, if necessary, to get Medicaid expansion and the budget passed.

Brewer issued a special-session proclamation at 5 p.m., and by then, Democrats and the expansion-friendly Republicans were already gathering on the House floor.

This is the first time in memory that a governor has called a special session with the intention of going around her own party’s leadership and without notifying them.

Brewer was playing for high stakes, too:

Many legislators were on their way home when Brewer called key lawmakers to a meeting in her offices, where the special-session plans were hatched. They agreed to unseat the speaker and Senate president, if necessary, to get Medicaid expansion and the budget passed.

I don't harbor any illusions that Jan Brewer has suddenly become a Democrat. This is a decision based upon hard, cold numbers and nothing more, no matter what paeans she gives to doing the 'moral thing.' No one should assume she's a hero or a convert, given her previous hard-line stances on abortion and other wedge issues. However, the politics she's playing are savvy and effective. For that she deserves props.

Even more significantly, she has now put the Arizona Tea Party in their place. They're not taking it well.

The tension and unease on the House floor, however, were almost palpable. Some members were angry, others appeared simply exhausted.

After Tobin convened the special session, the 32-member coalition of Democrats and Republicans were the only ones on the floor, with the exception of Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley, who introduced the conservative Republicans watching from the gallery above.

“She wanted ‘Obamacare’ so badly that she could not wait to impose high taxes and huge government programs on the people of Arizona,” Kwasman said. “Shame on the members of this House, and shame on the governor for calling this session.”

Conservative Republicans were in the gallery? I laughed until I cried over that one. Just imagine that scene for a minute.

National Senate and House Democrats, along with President Obama, take note. I realize state rules are different from national rules, but Brewer is playing this for keeps and you could learn from her.

Update: Brewer got her Medicaid expansion Thursday afternoon.

Brewer, however, spoke loudly and carried a big stick — crisscrossing the state to promote expansion and shame detractors. This month, she started vetoing a stream of unrelated bills to pry her top priority loose from Republicans, and she brought them back into special session.

Very early Thursday morning, the House approved Medicaid expansion. By late afternoon, the Senate had too.

“As an elected official of more than 30 years, I know that this process was not easy or without political risk,” Brewer said in a statement. “By joining me in extending health coverage to hundreds of thousands of Arizonans, legislators of my own party have come under sharp criticism in some quarters. Some have had threats made not just against their political future but also their personal livelihood.”

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.