How far would you go to deny 300,000 citizens access for affordable health care?
For Virginia Republicans, the answer is simple: As far as you need to go.
The Republican Party in Virginia is a microcosm of the party as a whole. Much like the congressional delegation of Republicans who have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 54 times, Republicans at the state level in Virginia have been doing everything possible to ensure that Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe is not allowed to expand Medicaid to nearly 300,000 of his state’s poorest residents. McAuliffe ran on a platform of Medicaid expansion and ever since he took over the governorship in January of 2014; he has made it no secret that it is one of his top priorities as governor.
However, Virginia Republicans have conscientiously chosen to go to great lengths to ensure that their fellow Virginians are not receiving the improved health care that was made available through the Affordable Care Act. The reasons for this are simple: If a Democratic president, a Democratic governor, and a Democratically-controlled state senate approve and enact the Medicaid expansion, the state of Virginia is no longer a toss-up state. Instead, it moves into the solid blue category for the foreseeable future. Instead of working with Virginia Democrats to find ways to improve the lives of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, Virginia Republicans have instead opted to lie, cheat, and steal to ensure that nobody in the state has access to the improved access to health care.
This is nothing new. Already, we have seen the Virginia Republican Party bribe a state senator by offering him a cushy job for himself as well as giving his daughter a foot up in her efforts to attain a state judgeship. By doing this, Republicans shifted the balance of power in the state government and gave themselves the ability to block the Medicaid expansion, which the entire Republican Party of Virginia has vowed to do. However, Governor McAuliffe has been unswayed by these Republican shenanigans and has even begun exploring executive options as a way to circumvent Republican obstruction. In an effort to prevent this apt and just use of power, Republicans, led by House Speaker William J. Howell, have included two amendments in the recently proposed state budget that would limit McAuliffe’s authority to expand Medicaid unilaterally. McAuliffe has publicly stated that he will veto any state budget that includes those amendments.
And yet, Republicans refuse to allow McAuliffe this political victory, even if it means playing by a whole new set of rules.
In an article that came out this week by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, it was revealed that Speaker Howell had enlisted the help of two members of the Capitol Police to drop off the proposed state budget to McAuliffe’s offices on Sunday, June 15th when the office was closed and locked. These two members entered the governor’s unoccupied, secure suite of offices deposited the budget before leaving the suite. This was done as an attempt to give Governor McAuliffe less time to review the budget as according to Virginia law; the governor must act on a budget within seven days once it has been given to him or her by the clerk’s office. By presenting the budget on not only Sunday but Father’s Day as well, Howell and his Republican cohorts hoped to deny McAuliffe valuable time he could use to analyze the budget, especially the two proposed amendments he had already threatened to veto.
On June 18th, McAuliffe’s chief of staff Paul Reagan issued a seething letter to Col. Anthony Pike, chief of Capitol Police as well as other prominent state Republicans. The letter read:
“This letter is to inform you that under no circumstances are you or any of your officers authorized to allow employees of the General Assembly to enter the secure areas of the governor’s office without my express permission, or the express permission of Suzette Denslow, the governor’s deputy chief of staff.
What occurred here Sunday is unacceptable. Two employees of the speaker of the House of Delegates were given access to an area of the governor’s office where sensitive files and materials are kept.
For good reason, it is an area that is surrounded by three security perimeters. Even on a normal business day, very few people — including members of the governor’s Cabinet — can gain access to this suite of offices. We certainly do not expect to have agents and employees of the General Assembly roaming through these offices on weekends.”
No charges have been filed as of Friday evening and, of course, Howell insists he did nothing wrong in the matter and that the only reason the budget was dropped off when it was was because it just happened to be “completed earlier than expected.” However, nobody outside of Howell’s office believes this explanation. For Virginia Republicans, it is another pitiful example of the lengths they will go to to deny the Medicaid expansion. Governor McAuliffe has continued to fight for the health and well-being of his state’s citizens while state Republicans have shown their true colors by playing petty politics with people’s lives. It is a sad and disgusting display, but it comes as no surprise as to what the Republican Party is in the year 2014. The party has become one so vindictive that they will go to any length to ensure that Democrats don’t win elections, even if those lengths include the pain, suffering, and ultimate death of fellow American citizens.
Sarah Palin was right. There are death panels associated with the Affordable Care Act. And these death panels are administered by state Republicans who would rather make a political statement than keep their state’s citizens alive and healthy.