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Expansion politics: Medicaid in NH's Senate

On Wednesday a state Senate committee voted 4-1 to recommend passage of a Medicaid compromise brokered between Senate Republican leaders and top Democrats. Conservatives are so beside themselves that some have taken to spouting conspiracy theories about the deal’s origins. Yet there is no mystery. There simply are not enough conservative Republicans in the Senate to craft the kind of bill that most grassroots conservatives would support.

State Rep. George Lambert, R-Litchfield, took to the radio airwaves this week to suggest that Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley supported the compromise because Bradley receives campaign contributions from the health care industry. Besides revealing that he is surprisingly disconnected from the political process in Concord, Lambert’s comments reflected a disappointing tendency among some to look for sinister motives when simple answers are staring them right in the face.

Sens. Chuck Morse and Jeb Bradley have not spent the better part of a year pursuing a Medicaid compromise because they are squishes or health care industry dupes. They have done this because they can count to 12, and they know that they do not have the votes to block Medicaid expansion in the Senate.

The new compromise is a far cry from the decent proposal Morse and Bradley put forth last year. But they view it as better than the alternative, which is a rubber-stamp passage of the House Democrats’ expansion proposal.

The reality is that Morse and Bradley are dealing with a GOP Senate caucus that is not unified in opposition to Medicaid expansion. There are 13 Republicans in the 24-member Senate, but two of them, Bob Odell and Nancy Stiles, are considered essentially pro-expansion. Without their votes to block the House Democrats’ plan, it will pass. So Morse and Bradley have tried to present a less disastrous alternative that Stiles and Odell can support.

Attacking Jeb Bradley’s character will not stop a costly Medicaid expansion. If conservatives want to produce results rather than just vent, they should meet with Sens. Odell and Stiles to work out a better deal. That is what real leaders do.

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