House falls short of supermajority for fourth time on Private Option for Medicaid expansion | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 21, 2014

House falls short of supermajority for fourth time on Private Option for Medicaid expansion

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 11:15 AM

click to enlarge LOWERY: expected to move to the Aye column
  • LOWERY: expected to move to the Aye column
***UPDATE 3: The House failed for a fourth time to reach the needed 75-vote supermajority for the private option. The measure received 71 votes today. Two Aye votes (Reps. Malone and Wilkins) were out of their seats, so the count is at 73. The House will try again on Tuesday at 1:30. See below for this morning's coverage: 

***UPDATE 2: House now in recess until 11 a.m. Team Carter is presumably working hard on the final swing votes. Sounds like they might believe they have a real shot at 75 today after all?*

***UPDATE: Carter's chief of staff Gabe Holmstrom led Slinkard, Carnine and Rep. John Hutchison off the House floor. Long shot, but if two of those three vote Aye, perhaps they can get to 75 today after all.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. to try once again to reach the needed supermajority of 75 votes to pass the appropriation which includes the private option. They were three votes short yesterday, but a few of those votes are expected to flip now that the House will be voting on the Senate bill (see here for the procedural brouhaha). 

Most vote-counters believe they're still one or two votes short today, but things change rapidly. Rep. Mark Lowery is expected to vote for the measure but Rep. Les Carnine and Rep. Mary Lou Slinkard, the other presumed swing votes, have not yet moved into the Aye column (Carnine has paired his vote, so we know for sure that he is voting NO today). That likely puts the count at 73 and would set up another vote on Tuesday. 

Lawmakers I've spoken with on both sides of the debate believe that eventual passage remains likely. That said, there is some tension developing among proponents around House Speaker Davy Carter's strategy of voting every day. Initially, Carter hoped to put pressure on the body to have their votes counted and finish up this week. But given that they knew they were short on Wednesday and Thursday in part because of issues around the timing of the vote, and now appear to know they're short again today, some question the wisdom of a daily diet of failed votes. This is of particular concern for Democrats in competitive districts who don't like the idea of taking the tough vote half a dozen times. (Does it actually matter how many times a politician votes for a policy that's enacted just once? This sounds to me like they're underestimating the creativity of political consultants who will attack them regardless.)

This morning, I asked Minority Leader Greg Leding — who said "the mood in our caucus is pretty tense" — about voting every day: 

I'm not sure that it's helping. Obviously every time we've voted we've added votes to the tally. But it clearly still hasn't moved those last remaining holdouts. The 75 votes are there. There are a number of members on both sides of the aisle who are incredibly frustrated by these daily votes coming up short, which for many members of this chamber is a difficult vote, especially in a campaign year, that they're just putting themselves and their campaigns at greater risk. But they're doing it because it's the right thing to do, and I applaud all of them. 

Leding expressed confidence that the supermajority will be achieved next week. He said that voting every day was "a good strategy for where we were at the start, but I don't know if it's the best strategy for where we are now."

There's also the matter of optics. If some proponents are confident that the votes will be in place when the timing is right, what is the upside to a long series of failed votes? This was a particular complaint among some lawmakers about yesterday's vote, when they knew that there was a vote or two to be picked up simply by waiting for the Senate bill. The fear is that opponents will argue that the sheer number of failed votes suggests an impasse. If the opponents can plausibly argue that reaching the 75-percent threshold is impossible, that could give renewed energy to those hoping to drag this fight out longer. 

Several Democrats told me they believe that the final vote will be Tuesday, and the House will reach the supermajority. 

One note of caution: has hubris set in? Lots of lawmakers from both parties have essentially been making an inevitability argument ever since the English announcement in the Senate. But, as one senator pointed out to me a few weeks ago — "people keep saying it will work itself out...but sometimes things don't work out."

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