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Virginia Senate Dems Condemn Wasteful Special Session Charade

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From the Virginia Senate Dem Caucus:

After promises of a “full and fair” debate, Senate ignores coverage gap and House fails to act

RICHMOND — When they first announced this week’s session, Republican leaders in the General Assembly promised a “full and fair” debate on efforts to close the coverage gap — a promise both chambers have broken.
 
In the Senate, no floor debate on the coverage gap took place. Bills languished when multiple committees refused to meet. This morning, Senate Finance briefly considered a single piece of health care legislation — which would not have closed the coverage gap — before shunting it off to JLARC for further review.
 
In the House, consideration of a coverage gap bill ended when most Republicans voted down a procedural motion. Despite promises of a solution from other Republicans, the Speaker did not introduce or support the “alternative approach” to closing the coverage gap that he hascalled for in the past.
 
Said Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chair Sen. Mamie Locke (D – Hampton), “The General Assembly just spent thousands of taxpayer dollars doing absolutely nothing to close the coverage gap. After calling us back to Richmond for a so-called ‘full and fair’ debate, Republicans once again failed to deliver the plan they promised in January, more than eight months ago.  They should be ashamed.”
 
Said Sen. George Barker (D – Fairfax), “The General Assembly didn’t just fail to close the coverage gap. Although the session had been billed as acting on health care for people, the Senate did not take up a single health care bill yesterday. I introduced a bill to allow up to 250,000 people to keep their current health insurance. I hoped we would take action to help these people. We must act soon because otherwise, with Virginia already seeing an increase in the uninsured, we may be further expanding rather than closing the coverage gap.”
 
Said Democratic Caucus Chair Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), “The Republicans’ commitment to debate the coverage gap was a fraud perpetrated on Virginians. We were called to Richmond by the Republicans for a full and fair debate on Medicaid expansion, and that never happened. You can’t have a fair debate when one side pre-judges the issue, as happened in the House. And in the Senate, there was no health care debate at all. The least Virginians deserve is honesty from their leaders.”
 

Said Democratic Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D – Fairfax), “It’s unfortunate that we came here for two days with everyone already knowing what the result would be. As far as the coverage gap was concerned, this session was for show and nothing else.” 

  • From an email Del. Krupicka sent out a bit earlier this afternoon:

    Yesterday the House of Delegates reconvened for a special session to discuss Medicaid. The session was called for by Speaker Bill Howell. Instead of being a chance for us to bring back our tax dollars and shore up struggling hospitals and help families in need, yesterday was simply a big waste of taxpayer money as we gathered in Richmond for a sham debate.  The die was cast before we even got there.

    Delegate Thomas Rust was the only Republican to present a plan. It received no support from the majority party leadership and was soundly rejected by the House. After so many Republican-led states have found ways to expand Medicaid, in Virginia we are still stuck with a majority party that has dug their heels in and provides us with no ideas and no plan.

    Instead of addressing Medicaid, Republicans focused their efforts on an astounding power grab for Speaker Howell. Last night the House passed HR566, which authorizes the Speaker to hire outside counsel to represent the House anytime the Speaker disagrees with the Attorney General or the Governor.  Although Medicaid expansion, marriage equality and workers’ rights were explicitly mentioned (one could say threatened), this empowerment of the Speaker is distressingly broad and provides the Speaker the ability to undercut the Governor and Attorney General on any issue where he has a differing opinion. HR566 represents a huge blow, not just to the executive branch, but to the entire concept of checks and balances in our government.

    Added to the legal power grab, we didn’t close down our special session, as would normally be the case. Instead, we just recessed with the potential for the Speaker to call us back at anytime. By keeping it open, the Speaker continues to grow his power so he can obstruct anything the Governor or Attorney General do. Republicans are slowly moving us from a part-time to a full-time legislature so that they can interfere with the governing of the state.

    This blatant grab for power by the leadership of the House of Delegates is a direct affront to the expressed desires of the voters of Virginia who elected our Governor and Attorney General and in recent polls have shown strong support for Medicaid expansion.

    We can’t let this kind of thing stand. I need your help for next year’s legislative session as well as next year’s elections. The stakes keep getting higher and the balance of power and direction of our state is at risk.

  • Richmond, Va. – The Virginia House of Delegates met yesterday in what was billed as a discussion of how best to expand healthcare to 400,000 working Virginians. Instead, House Republicans facilitated a sham session that left every one of those 400,000 without access to affordable health care.  Virginia taxpayers footed the $33,000 bill for this empty exercise.

    “Even with control of both chambers, Republicans failed to offer a serious plan to close the healthcare gap,” said Del. Kaye Kory (VA-38). “As far as 400,000 hard-working, uninsured Virginians are concerned, House Republicans stand squarely between them and healthy, productive lives.”

    Impoverished Virginians are again left in hospital emergency rooms, as the staunchly partisan House Republicans choose to make cuts to education and transportation instead of returning $2.1 billion of Virginia’s taxpayer dollars to the Commonwealth and eliminating Virginia’s budget shortfall.