Gov. McAuliffe Stumbles Out of the Gate in Virginia

Image: Gov. McAuliffe Stumbles Out of the Gate in Virginia

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 09:10 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is struggling to gain traction for his political initiatives just two months into the job, having relied too heavily on what Republicans say has been "all schmooze and little substance," The New York Times reports.

Since the Democrat's slim victory over GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in November, McAuliffe has focused much of his efforts on a charm offensive, regularly entertaining lawmakers from both sides of the aisle at happy hours at the Executive Mansion.

His efforts, however, are now falling flat with the conservative Republican majority in the House of Delegates who are now at loggerheads with the governor over the state budget.

"I think he was under the impression you just come down here, slap everybody on the back, have a few cocktail parties, and we'd pass things where we have real differences in philosophy," Kirk Cox, Virginia House majority leader, told the Times. "I don't think that's worked for him."

The 60-day legislative session ended in a standoff without having agreed on a budget. At issue is McAuliffe's plan to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which had been a central theme during his campaign.

In recent weeks, he has toured the state to drum up support for the initiative and put pressure on Republicans in poorer areas that could benefit most from the expansion, according to the Times.

Republicans, however, are standing firm in their opposition to it, having overwhelmingly defeated expansion in a test vote in the House three weeks ago, and both sides are warning of a government shutdown as they embark on a special session Monday, according to the Times.

"My friends ask me how it is to work with the governor," Thomas Greason, a GOP delegate, told the Times. "I say he's a great guy to have a beer with. He's a great storyteller. He tells you about meeting the Queen of England. I just don't know if he's gotten completely up to speed on how we are supposed to govern."

Speaker of the House William Howell, told the Times, "I've never seen, Republican or Democrat, anybody come in with so little an agenda and so little attention to the process."

McAuliffe, however, believes he has accomplished much in his first few months in office and predicts he will prevail in the Medicaid fight.

"Most people would say I had a more successful session than any first-term governor," he told the Times.

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