Moderates in the Texas House leadership, working with liberal Democrats, thought they were being really sneaky Thursday when a backdoor amendment to expand Medicaid and implement ObamaCare was added to the budget. Fortunately, lawmakers took action and repealed the language before it could go into the final bill.
It began when State Rep. John Zerwas, a moderate from Fort Bend County outside Houston, attached complicated language to a Democrat’s amendment. It was all very friendly. The members paying attention caught it and voted no. But all too many voted with it.
And why shouldn’t they? After all, Rep. Zerwas is Speaker Joe Straus’ point-man on all things health care (despite not chairing the Public Health Committee, a task that’s gone to Rep. Lois Kolkhorst). A physician, Rep. Zerwas has been widely considered sympathetic to bloating the Medicaid program and imposing ObamaCare.
Maybe that’s why conservative members should have been suspicious. But the amendment was offered in the context of a budget debate in which liberals, moderates and Republicans seeking establishment approval voted in lock-step with the Speaker’s leadership team.
In all, though, only 33 Republicans – siding with 53 Democrats – voted for the expansion language. Clearly, the liberals knew what they were doing.
The vote was hailed by left-leaning bloggers as the “Medicaid Amendment” with a Capitol gossip site crowing that the “HOUSE ADDS INTENT LANGUAGE TO BUDGET ON EXPANSION OF HEALTH CARE.”
Voting badly (and probably, blindly, we’ll assume) were the following 33 Republicans:
Aycock; Bonnen, D.; Callegari;
Carter; Cook; Crownover; Darby; Davis, J.; Farney; Geren; Harless; Hunter; King (Ken); King (Phil); King (Susan); Larson; Miller, D.; Morrison; Orr; Otto; Patrick; Pitts; Price; Raney; Ratliff; Ritter; Sheffield, J.; Simmons; Simpson; Smith; Smithee; Toth; Workman; Zerwas.
(Note: 62 Republicans knew the score, and voted correctly. Unfortunately, 33 lazy-or-worse Rs plus 55 Democrats can equate to bad public policy.) [UPDATE: Rep. Stefani Carter tells me she was out of the chamber and was “voted” by someone; she corrected the entry in the official Journal. Similarly, Mr. Toth and Mr. Simmons tell me they also immediately changed their votes immediately on realizing what had happened, thinking they were tabling the amendment. Mrs. King also changed her vote in the official record.]
An hour later, as it dawned on the Republicans the con Rep. Zerwas had played, Rep. Geannie Morrison called for a motion to reconsider the action.
This time, all the Republicans in the chamber got in line:
Anderson; Ashby; Aycock; Bell; Bohac; Bonnen, D.; Bonnen, G.; Branch; Burkett; Button; Callegari; Capriglione; Carter; Clardy; Cook; Craddick; Creighton; Crownover; Dale; Darby; Davis, J.; Davis, S.; Eiland; Elkins; Fallon; Farney; Fletcher; Flynn; Frank; Frullo; Goldman; Gonzales; Harless; Harper-Brown; Hilderbran; Huberty; Hughes; Hunter; Isaac; Kacal; Keffer; King, K.; King, P.; King, S.; Kleinschmidt; Klick; Kolkhorst; Krause; Kuempel; Larson; Laubenberg; Lavender; Leach; Lewis; Lozano; Miller, D.; Miller, R.; Morrison; Murphy; Orr; Otto; Paddie; Parker; Patrick; Perry; Phillips; Pitts; Price; Raney; Ratliff; Riddle; Ritter; Sanford; Schaefer; Sheets; Sheffield, J.; Sheffield, R.; Simmons; Simpson; Smith; Smithee; Springer; Stephenson; Stickland; Taylor; Thompson, E.; Toth; Turner, E.S.; Villalba; White; Workman; Zedler; Zerwas
Including, you will notice, Dr. Zerwas himself.
It would be easy to describe what Dr. Zerwas did as a failure of leadership, or an accident. It was too well orchestrated for that. The pro-ObamaCare Democrats and moderate GOP leadership tried—and failed—to expand Medicaid. The failure was in conservatives allowing this leadership team to play games.
Fortunately, the nefarious deed was stopped. This time. We can hope there won’t be a next time, but there probably will be. Despite a near-supermajority of Republicans, conscientious conservatives are finding that vigilance is the order of the session.
Remind your legislator that a big part of their daily job is to stop ObamaCare!