The typical low-key summer gathering of the nation's governors was anything but subdued this year.
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision leaving it up to the states whether to expand their Medicaid programs topped headlines coming from the National Governors Association's two-day meeting held in Williamsburg, Va., that began July 13.
As Stateline has reported, Medicaid expansion may be a tough fiscal call for some states. Governors of both parties have indicated they want more time to study the impact of expanding their programs with the help of federal money.
“We will be involved in a process that defines the best fit for our state and respects the sovereignty of our state and the individuality of our state,” Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri, a Democrat who is facing re-election this year and a GOP-controlled legislature, told The New York Times.
The NGA, an organization made up of governors of both parties, historically strives for bipartisan agreement, but with this topic, that seems unlikely. “Politically, it's still very, very partisan, I think, so you're not going to get any consensus,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told The Washington Post. Hickenlooper is among a handful of Democrats who has yet to decide whether he will opt out of the expansion. Another is Delaware's Governor Jack Markell, the new NGA chairman.
Markell plans to hold a summit at month's end with state Medicaid directors, insurance commissioners, and Health and Human Services representatives to tackle the questions arising from the high court's decision, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, accused his Republican counterparts of political posturing. "The Republicans don't really mean what they're saying. If in fact this law is enacted as of 2014, I urge every Republican governor who says they won't take the money after the election to resign if they end up taking the money," Malloy told Reuters.
But Republican Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, NGA's outgoing chairman, says it's more than that. “They all say it's free federal money. No, it's not. That's our tax dollars," he told NPR.
President Obama was campaigning in Virginia this past weekend, just hours away from where the governors were meeting in Colonial Williamsburg. “Whether the president planned to upstage the governors, you'll have to ask him,” said Governor Bob McDonnell, the host governor, The Washington Post said in another report.
McDonnell also heads the Republican Governors Association and both the RGA and Democratic counterpart held fundraisers over the weekend, The Post said.
For the Democrats, Politico reported that Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, DGA chairman, has toured the 2012 swing states and has emerged as “perhaps the sharpest-tongued, most enthusiastic and aggressive advocate for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign.”
As Bloomberg summed up, the Supreme Court decision “put governors in the center of an election-year battle over the health-care overhaul, Obama's signature domestic achievement.”