Governor Terry McAuliffe held a news conference Friday (see Terry McAuliffe: Statement on 2015-16 budget actions) to announce his intentions with the state budget and Medicaid. The Roanoke Times noted:
Gov. Terry McAuliffe will try to bypass the General Assembly to expand health coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians, while attempting to block legislative priorities ranging from judicial appointments to an overhaul of the Capitol complex in Richmond.
McAuliffe said Friday he will sign a two-year state budget that does not include his top legislative priority — expansion of Medicaid — in order to protect public services and Virginia’s AAA bond rating in the face of a projected $1.55 billion revenue shortfall.
The governor also discarded a politically paralyzed legislative commission on Medicaid reform as a way to expand health coverage. He promised instead to move forward without legislative consent to take advantage of billions in federal funding for the uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.
“Let me be crystal clear: I am moving forward to get Virginians health care,” he said in a news conference at the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond.
Democrats hailed the action while Republicans said the Governor had no power to expand Medicaid on his own. Former Republican State Senator Brandon Bell used a sports analogy in his Facebook reaction to the Governor’s move:
In baseball it’s called an unforced error! Yes I did predict the Governor would do this. But the Republicans in the General Assembly made it easy for him. They added an amendment that would prevent the expansion of Medicaid. It was vetoed. Republicans have no way to override the veto, therefore the legislative intent will be interpreted by the courts as allowing him to move forward on expansion. The legislators’ zeal to “make a statement” prevented them from seeing the end of the chess match. It was a softball the Governor was able to hit out of the park … to keep baseball in it.
Stay tuned to this ongoing story….
Brandon’s analysis is flawed by the fact that he doesn’t seem to know exactly what the Senate did. No court is going to look at legislative intent when there’s no express grant of authority to expand medicaid in the budget. That language was removed, and the Governor’s attempted veto won’t change that.
Republicans have no way to override the veto? Well that’s not true. What about the courts? In 1996 the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against a line-item veto by Governor George Allen by affirming that a governor could only use his line-item veto to scrap individual appropriations of funds. Legal precedent, as well as the rule of law, is squarely against Governor McAuliffe on this one. This was not a softball that Governor McAuliffe hit out of the park. This is hardball and we are going into extra innings. To keep baseball in it, as Mr. Bell is wont to do.