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While Cannon thinks that Arkansas should have rejected even a partnership, he said that the state was better off with that than running its own exchange, because now individuals, employers and the state itself may be able to challenge penalties that he believes are illegal. As Bledsoe noted, if successful, that would lead to the "collapse" of the statute.
"People can challenge anything and they do, but we're not concerned about this challenge," Crone said.
Lamoureux said that he will "definitely" be watching the Oklahoma lawsuit and House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) said, "I've heard the arguments. I've read the information, but I don't know that anybody's got a definitive answer on that."
Not all Republicans think the legal avenue will lead anywhere. "That discussion is out there," Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) said. "To be honest I think we've already had the lawsuit so I'm not going to base anything that I do around the possible outcome of some future lawsuit." Dismang nevertheless opposed a state-run exchange.
Whether or not legal challenges to federally run exchanges have legs, the national conservative movement and anti-Obamacare dogma is also likely to color the coming debate on Medicaid expansion. The focus on state lawmakers from national activists is not new — as far back as last spring, the Tea Party group FreedomWorks hosted a panel titled "How to Stop ObamaCare at the State Level," featuring Cannon and Herrera.
Given the influx of more than a million dollars from Americans for Prosperity into the last legislative elections, it's fair to assume that outside money will play a role in the Medicaid expansion debate and that the ideas of movement conservatives may get as much traction as Arkansas's parochial concerns.
Cannon predicted that while Republican legislators might be tempted by the federal dollars that come with expansion, they will face political pressure to vote against it.
"The Republican base still hates this law," Cannon said. "Lots of folks in the GOP base were totally disheartened by what happened in November. They've been looking for an outlet for their frustration, and they've found it in [opposition to] Obamacare."
"Republican politicians have ambitions," he added. "And they know they will be fighting an uphill battle if they are the guy who implemented Obamacare. And that includes state legislators."
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