The warning signs are everywhere.
In the first several years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helped states make more low-income people eligible for Medicaid, it was only Democratic-led states that took the federal government up on its offer. Republicans have since warmed to the idea — but only on their own terms, and sometimes even if it means going against voters’ wishes…..
While some Republicans in Georgia, Oklahoma and Wyoming are exploring the possibility of Medicaid expansion in their states, Idaho and Utah are undoing ballot measures that voters passed in November to expand Medicaid.
In Utah, the Republican governor responded to the success of a ballot initiative expanding Medicaid by signing a bill that would only cover people earning up to the federal poverty line; it would also cap enrollment if costs exceed what’s expected.
But the terms of the ballot measure, which passed with 53 percent of the vote, were to expand Medicaid eligibility to people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
Utah has to get federal approval of this law, and similar measures were not approved during the Obama administration. The Trump Administration, of course, is hostile to pretty much everything the federal government does, so it might very well allow what is a clear repudiation of the will of the voters in Utah.
It isn’t only Utah.
Idaho is also eyeing a rollback of its citizen-led Medicaid expansion ballot measure. The initiative won handily, with 61 percent of the vote….But legislation to void the initiative is currently making its way through the Idaho statehouse.
And many of you will recall that in 2016, Maine voters approved Medicaid expansion, but the state’s certifiable nut-case then-governor, Paul LePage, prevented it from taking effect.
Whatever one’s position on Medicaid expansion, these are truly breathtaking examples of legislative and administrative chutzpah. The citizens of these states voted on an issue before them; in essence, they gave instructions to the people who are presumably in office to represent them. And those people simply ignored them.
This is not unlike Trump’s decision to declare an “emergency” that would allow him to defy a Congressional vote. Even if a member of Congress believes the wall should be built, he or she should be appalled by a Presidential action that strikes at the very heart of the Constitution’s separation of powers. It ignores as irrelevant the constitutional provision that vests decisions about spending in Congress, a provision that–before now–has constrained lawmakers and administrators alike.
Congress said no. That should have been the end of it. The President’s “emergency” is not only bogus, it ignores the clear division of authority mandated by the nation’s charter.
Yet every single Indiana Republican Representative voted against the House Resolution to reverse that dangerous attack on a fundamental element of American governance, placing the interests of their political party above both the good of the country and fidelity to their oaths of office.
Without the rule of law–without lawmakers and public officials who are willing to accept the decisions of voters whether they like those decisions or not; without lawmakers who are willing to insist upon compliance with the Constitution even when it is their party that is breaking the rules–we don’t have a democracy or a republic or even a legitimate government.
We have a banana republic.