After hours of heated debate and weeks of delays, the Virginia Senate has passed a budget that includes Medicaid expansion.
This is expected to conclude a nearly five-year effort by Democrats to widen coverage for 400,000 more Virginians using federal funds from the Affordable Care Act.
The vote comes one day after a heated session that included a committee killing expansion.
Four Republicans broke with the Republican Senate majority and joined Democrats in voting 23-17 for the bills. That includes Senators Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), Ben Chafin (R-Russell) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier).
Senate passes budget with Medicaid expansion . Vote was 23 yeas to 17 nos. More support developed after debate.— Heather Sullivan (@HeatherNBC12) May 30, 2018
Chafin said he voted for it because of the core public services the funding would pay for. Vogel said she supported it because of funding for her priorities and other reforms in the bills.
Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) argued against the bills on the floor, saying they were spending money like they're "drunk in New Orleans."
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R - James City County) issued a statement, reading in part:
Today, the General Assembly approved a budget that abandons Virginia's long-standing reputation for fiscal responsibility. This budget marks a stark departure, both from the conservative fiscal policies observed by the Commonwealth for generations and in the manner in which it was approved by the General Assembly.
The House of Delegates is expected to take up the bills Wednesday night. If they are able to reconcile them with the budget they passed, it will go to the Governor's desk.
Governor Northam campaigned on a commitment to expand Medicaid and is expected to sign the bill.
The Governor issued a statement saying:
Today a bipartisan group of leaders in the Virginia Senate voted to make history and make people’s lives better. The budget the Senate passed today expands health care to Virginians, invests in core economic priorities and strengthens the cash reserves we need for a rainy day.
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