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In Virginia, It’s 2004 All Over Again

Virginia Republicans are setting themselves up to reenact the budget stalemate that nearly broke them as a majority party.

House Republicans have advanced a state version of the state budget that includes Medicaid expansion [1].  That’s rebranding in a very big way.

The Republican-controlled Senate has not, sticking to the pre-November 2017 election script to nibble [2] at the most distant edges of expansion.

The difference between their two approaches: about $600 million [3].

Which means the conference committee negotiations on the budget will be, ah, spirited. They have the very real potential to be explosive, because the House’s move represents a fundamental break with the GOP catechism. The Senate isn’t yet on board.

House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) couched the change in a truism, saying there was “no question that the political dynamics have changed.”

It is rooted in two realities that many of my friends on the right have failed to see.

The most obvious: the Republican rout in November. As former Del. Scott Lingamfelter – who was among the GOP losers in November – wrote on his Facebook page [4], “when you go from a significant GOP majority to a razor thin one, this [Medicaid expansion] is what happens.”

Cox described the other reality in a press release [5]:

My longstanding concerns about the cost of expansion aren’t going away, but unfortunately the ACA is here to stay and the Trump administration is the best chance to secure conservative reforms.

“The ACA is here to stay.” Yes it is. Congressional Republicans had everything they needed to repeal the ACA in 2017, except leadership, vision and determination. Their failure all but assured the law will live, in some form, for years to come.

Cox & Co. decided to try to make the best of these new realities, opting to make the best deal they could while they still had the votes to get it.

But House Republicans should be under no illusions their policy change will give them cover in the 2019 elections.

Incumbents may face challenges from the right. With the legality of the so-called incumbent-protection act in doubt [6] — meaning incumbents may no longer dictate the method of their renomination for office – a flurry of activist-driven conventions may be on the horizon.

Or not. House Republicans didn’t suffer after approving massive tax increases for road construction in 2013. That increase breached the Republican gospel on tax hikes in staggering fashion. But their House majority held firm at 67 seats [7] after the 2013 elections.

Continue reading here [8].