Virginia lawmakers pass a budget, but the tug-of-war is far from over. The final vote came down late Thursday night, after hours of back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats. Legislators initially intended on a swift passage of a spending plan. However, Senate Republicans introduced a last-minute amendment, throwing a wrench in the process.
The amendment strikes out any chance of Governor McAullife pushing through a Medicaid expansion without the General Assembly, or through executive order. This has left some Democrats greatly disappointed, saying that hundreds of thousands of Virginians won't get the health coverage they need.
Medicaid supporters filled the gallery of the Senate chamber showing their support for healthcare. Regardless, the Senate and the House passed the budget, with the new amendment.
Meantime, Republicans insist a Medicaid expansion can be introduced at a later date.
"You can still have a special session. Bills can still be introduced. We've committed to that... Basically what it does is give some comfort to a lot of our folks that the governor will not do this through Executive Order," said Delegate Kirk Cox, the Republican Virginia House Majority Leader.
"I'm disappointed. It pretty much forecloses Medicaid expansion in Virginia for the foreseeable future," said Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Henrico.
Governor McAullife released a statement saying in part that "when the budget reaches his desk, he'll take the actions that he deems necessary, but this fight is far from over."
The governor still has the authority to veto or amend this budget. If that happens, the battle will reignite in the General Assembly. That could mean a possible government shut down.
Another major factor is that if a budget isn't passed by July 1, the state can't tap into its Rainy Day Fund. Legislators were planning to use up to $800 million dollars of that money to help soften the blow on other possible budget cuts. Governor McAullife has one week to act.
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