Virginia Republicans are moving forward with a state budget without a Medicaid expansion plan after Sen. Phillip Puckett (D) resigned on Monday.
The resignation created a power shift in the previously stalled General Assembly, giving the Republicans a 20-to-19 majority, allowing them to unexpectedly call the Senate back into session on Thursday, according to the Washington Post. They hope that the can pass the new budget through the Senate and send it to Gov. Terry McAuliffe that same day for his approval.
McAuliffe, who has placed Medicaid expansion as a top priority, has been exploring the possibility of using his executive powers to circumvent the conservative House and Senate to expand Medicaid without legislative approval. His executive power technically encompasses job creation and expanding Medicaid, as well as expanding abortion rights and gay rights. However, the consequences of acting without support from the General Assembly could be extremely damaging for his public image.
Meanwhile, Republicans say that “they will pass a budget without Medicaid expansion before Puckett’s seat is filled,” according to the Washington Post. Even if the budget was stalled until a special election, Puckett’s district now leans much farther right than it did at the time of his election, so the seat will most likely be filled by a Republican.
Now that the Democrats have lost control of the Senate, their only hope is a separate special session that would address Medicaid expansion, according to the Washington Post.