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Perspective: Ohio Medicaid vote mirrors shutdown/deficit fight

1:22 PM, Oct 22, 2013   |    comments
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COLUMBUS  -- The battle over passing Medicaid expansion in Ohio and the fights over the federal government shutdown and threat of default have similarities in their scripts.

In both cases, ultra-conservative lawmakers marching to the beat of Tea Party drums tried and ultimately failed to kill all or block part of Obamacare. In the end they were left with little to show for their passionate efforts but frustration and anger.

Polls show most Americans blame Republicans in Congress for the shutdown and near default. And polls show most Ohioans favored expanding Medicaid.

Ohio now joins 25 states and the District of Columbia in expanding or modifying Medicaid to cover the working poor, mentally ill, those with substance issues and veterans who now fall through the cracks.

In Ohio, hospitals, labor unions, social service advocates, religious organizations and many business groups spoke with one voice to back Governor Kasich's expansion proposal.

But moderate Republicans prevented an up-or-down vote in the legislature, fearing those supporting it would be targeted by Tea Party opponents in future primaries.

Expansion will face one or more lawsuits challenging it.

Opponents argue that Kasich's end-run around them  breaks the law.

The Controlling Board is a relatively obscure panel that normally makes budgetary tweaks or adjustments.

The lawsuits will argue the 5-2 vote is illegal because it goes against the expressed will of the legislature which included a measure in the budget against expansion.

Kasich vetoed that. But his veto was not challenged.

Republican State Rep. Louis Terhar said the Controlling Board vote took away most Ohioans representation.

Six votes came from lawmakers.

"What just happened is that 90 percent of the people in Ohio just got disenfranchised because they (or their lawmakers) didn't get to vote," he said.

Tea Party members believe their arguments against excessive spending and Obamacare are so compelling it warrants halting or holding normal government operations hostage.

Governor John  Kasich opposes most of Obamacare. And he championed budgets cuts when he was in Congress.

But he believes Medicaid expansion returns billions of Ohio tax dollars to help struggling Ohioans and is the morally right thing to do.

Tea Party Republicans rejected those arguments.

By not working with him, they left him little choice but to go around them.

And now extreme and moderate Republicans must figure out how to heal their split .

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