Medicaid Expansion Passes Senate Committee, House Rs Threaten Veto

Pat Vance
Sen. Pat Vance

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed an update to the Welfare Code Friday night that included language accepting the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. If its Republican supporters stick with it, it has the votes to pass the Senate.

But will its potential Senate passage mean disaster for the GOP budget in the House?

The bill providing for the acceptance of Medicaid expansion passed committee on a 9 to 2 vote. It received full support of the committee’s 4 Democrats and the support of 5 of its 7 Republicans as well.

Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) voted yes, as did Sens. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne),Ted Erickson (R-Delaware), Bob Mensch (R-Montco) and Pat Vance (R-Cumberland).

Sens. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) and Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) voted no.

According reports from the AP, in the formulation of the bill there were steps taken to make it more palatable to Senate Republicans. A certain degree of work requirements are included. As well there is an agreement to roll back the expansion if the federal government reneges on its agreement to pay the majority of the costs.

Even input from the Governor’s office into the bill did not do enough to gain his official support.

“There’s no agreement, there’s no understanding,” said Corbett spokeswoman Jennifer Branstetter.

The bill must next clear the Appropriations Committee. If the Republicans who voted for ir Friday continue to support it, it will have enough votes to pass that committee and the full Senate. 4 Republicans serve on Appropriations who voted for the bill Friday.

If all 10 of that committee’s Democrats vote for it along with 4 Baker, Mensch, Scarnati

Minority Chair Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) was pleased with the progress though.

“I think it represents a huge step forward for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in terms of getting health care services to at least a half million Pennsylvania residents who are working every day,” he said.

While Medicaid may have moved in the Senate, a united group of House Republicans reiterated their desire for it to fail. 33 rank-and-file members signed on to a letter stating that they would vote down the main budget bill if Medicaid expansion is in any way included.

“We are prepared to vote no on the General Appropriation bill if any component of the budget expands Medicaid,” the letter read.

The budget which passed the House on June 12th, did so in a vote of 108-92. This means that either these conservative hardliners back down, or Republicans start finding some Democratic votes for their budget when the final product goes back to the House for a vote.

The bill including provisions for Medicaid expansion will move onto the floor of the Senate once it passes through the Appropriations Committee.

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