Just when it seemed the level of opposition to the transportation bill couldn’t get much broader, you can now add General Assembly Democrats to the list. Because they want even more government. First up, Senate Democrats:
Meeting attendees said the anger over a Wednesday letter sent by the governor all but ruling out an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act this year, is prompting dissension in the ranks over transportation — the other critical piece of legislation remaining before lawmakers this session.
In a letter to the chairmen of the General Assembly’s budget committees on Wednesday, McDonnell said he would not support Medicaid expansion without a guarantee that federal spending on the program would not increase “the immoral national debt.”
Good for Governor McDonnell.
But his stand on the Medicaid issue has seen Democratic support for transportation all but evaporate:
At the Senate Democratic caucus Thursday afternoon, members discussed their position on the transportation deal. According to Democrats at the meeting, the plan, which had 20 votes Wednesday, has five or six votes of support today.
Which, absent a herculean amount of arm-twisting, plus the kind of party discipline that Senate Democrats just don’t have, could very well mean the transportation bill is dead in the Senate.
But there’s always the House, right? Nope. House Democrats — a block whose votes will be critical for getting the transportation bill through the lower chamber — are also in a snit:
…Democratic support for the legislation in the GOP-dominated House appears fragile. Caucus members have expressed concern over the governor’s ability to amend or delete sections of the deal that made the more difficult components of the package easier to support.
The Democratic rump in the House is edgy about transferring general fund money away from education and toward transportation.
Any way you look at it, without Democratic votes in both houses, the transportation bill dies. Recall that the original House vote in favor of a revised McDonnell plan passed 53-46. It needed Democratic votes to pass.
Those four votes may not be there this time around — and even if they were, even a small handful of additional Republican “no” votes will sink the bill outright.
It all comes down to a couple of things…
Whether Republicans want to be saddled with having to vote for, in Ken Cuccinelli’s words, “a massive tax hike.”
And whether the Governor is willing to strike a deal that would require him to abandon his principled stand on Medicaid expansion in exchange for a transportation deal.
Kind of makes all that fuss and fury over redistricting seem rather quaint.