House Republicans in the Florida Legislature have rejected a state Senate plan to make use of federal funds to bankroll Medicaid expansion, despite GOP Gov. Rick Scott's support for the proposal.
According to The New York Times
, the plan would have used $1 billion provided under the federal government's Affordable Care Act to add low-income Floridians to private insurance plans. As a result, more than a million low-income state residents will remain without health insurance at least until 2014.
With the legislature due to start recess at the end of the week, proponents of the bill are out of time to draft a compromise. Furious Democrats staged a protest using a little known tactic called "slowdown" which demands a full reading of all House bills ready for a floor vote.
But Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford countered by trotting out an automated reader called "Mary" to spend part of Tuesday and all of Wednesday speed reading through the bills.
"It's unfortunate that we have had to take such unusual action today, but my Democratic colleagues and I believe that a drastic situation requires drastic tactics," said House Democratic leader Perry Thurston, the Times reported.
"The 1.2 million people who can be provided medical coverage under proposed legislation may not be aware of what's transpiring in Tallahassee," he added.
Democrats want the governor to pressure House Republicans into changing their views by calling a special session to address the issue or by vetoing the state budget in response, the Times reported.
If he doesn't, the state lawmakers could try to find a way forward in 2014, the state will have lost claim to the $1 billion on the table from the federal government.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and a former member of the Florida Senate, made an appearance in the chamber to call the governor to account.
"While it's very nice that Governor Scott has had a deathbed conversion and decided that he does want to accept the federal funds, it's time for him to get off the sidelines," she said. "Either he is for accepting those funds and is willing to use his clout and his weight and put the full weight of his office behind that position, or he is not."
According to the Times, she described state House Republicans as "spoiled children who are stomping their feet because they didn't get their way."
The GOP legislators rejected the state Senate's proposal because they don’t want to expand a program they say is broken and already too costly. But in place of Medicaid expansion, the Republican-controlled House passed a plan that would use as much as $300 million in state money to provide basic coverage to about 115,000 Floridians.
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