Less than a week ago, Senator Jason Rapert announced at AAI’s Conway town hall that he wanted the legislature to delay passage of the “private option” Medicaid expansion. Less than 72 hours ago, Rapert reiterated his call for delay, specifying this time that the legislature needed to take three weeks off to go visit with constituents about the plan. Late last night, however, just 48 hours after re-issuing the call for delay across state media, Rapert announced his intentions to support the “private option,” sending out a series of tweets claiming that he was supplying “the critical vote needed to pass it,” and his support “moves the legislature closer to $100 million in tax cuts.” “I’m proud of that,” the senator proclaimed.
A few comments about all of these developments:
1. Time flies when you’re spending other people’s money. Only in the legislature could 48 hours be seen as three weeks.
2. Let’s hope Senator Rapert’s judgment about what’s best for his constituents is better than his math skills. It will take two more votes in the Senate even after counting Rapert’s to authorize Medicaid expansion funding. Who does Rapert think the other two defectors will be and in what alternate reality is he the deciding vote? (And why on earth would he want to be known as such, when he campaigned wholeheartedly against Obamacare and Medicaid expansion?)
3. Note that the attempt to condition tax relief on the passage of Medicaid expansion has lost some believers — including a leading sponsor of the Medicaid expansion bill, Rep. John Burris. Burris admitted to Talk Business that expanding Medicaid isn’t directly tied to cutting taxes in any real way. The only way the two are tied together is because Republican lawmakers — who seem only intermittently aware that they have a majority in both chambers — have been unwilling to disentangle the issues and stand up to the governor.
4. It isn’t clear when the final Senate private option vote will be held, so Senator Rapert still has a couple of days to think about flip-flopping again. For those keeping score at home, first he was against it, then he favored a special session to decide, and now he is for it.
5. With news breaking that North Korea may be targeting Arkansas for a nuclear attack, certainly the best new talking point for passing the “private option” will be telling taxpayers that “a vote for the private option is a vote against a nuke attack.” Considering the full litany of ridiculous statements that have been made on the wonder of the “private option,” a remark of this sort wouldn’t surprise me. In fact, legislators should pledge to send an Arkansas delegation to visit Kim Jong Un for negotiations. Perhaps the dear leader will benevolently agree to let the people of Arkansas have tax cuts — if they pass the “private option,” of course.
*Disclaimer: this article seeks to neither demonize nor deify the “private option,” but rather, speak of it accurately.