Montana conservatives are alarmed that the governor and legislators are changing the rules to pass a sprawling Medicaid expansion.
Previous attempts by Democrats and some Republicans in the state legislature to expand Medicaid, including a ballot initiative last year, have been unsuccessful. The rule change has the potential to make Medicaid expansion mush easier to pass.
Many on the right are concerned about expanding Medicaid because of the potential it has to worsen problems already in the system. Many have accused Medicaid of being a financial disaster and plagued by fraud. Additionally, some even see an expansion of Medicaid as a backdoor way to expand ObamaCare.
Prior to the rule change, if a bill was tabled or otherwise in committee after it had a hearing, it took a vote of three-fifths of the full chamber to bring the bill to the floor for a debate and vote. That 60-vote requirement is now a simple majority of 51 votes.
Christie Herrera, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, predicted that this rule change will be used to pass previously defeated policies like Medicaid expansion.
“It was a backdoor measure to get Medicaid expansion,” Herrera told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday.
Herrera notes that the rule change was supported by all 41 of the Democrats and about 10 moderate Republicans. Before the rule change, these Democrats and the small group of moderate Republican couldn’t get Medicaid expansion passed. With the change they now can.
Herrera also argued that though Montana tends to be fairly apathetic on the issue, the recent ballot initiative shows people in the state are for the most part against it: “Backers failed to get enough signatures.”
Brent Mead, who has worked in the Montana Senate, agrees that the rule change was made to help get Medicaid expansion passed.
“Medicaid was one of the major drivers,” Mead said. “The Democrats and moderates have wanted to crack down on political speech.”
Though the details of a possible upcoming attempt to pass Medicaid expansion are not yet available, the Democratic governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, has said, “The proposal is there, it’s going to come.”
Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Chuck Hunter argued that the rule change was not made to make it easier to pass Medicaid expansion.
“It may be a way to get legislation to the floor that the majority of members want to discuss,” Hunter said.
Additionally, Hunter and the other Democrats claim the Montana Constitution requires a simple majority on most issues, unless specifically noted. As such, the rule change will make the legislature act more in accordance with state law.