Let’s be clear: Michigan’s Republicans can get things done quicky — especially when they’re doing the bidding of their big donors.
Since taking over the governorship and winning a supermajority in the state Senate in 2010, they’ve shifted the tax burden from big business to pensioners and the poor. They’ve cut a billion dollars from education and twice implemented an emergency manager law that replaces local elected officials — almost exclusively in African-American communities — with appointed bureaucrats.
And late in 2012, just after President Obama won the state by more than 9 percent, legislation designed to cripple labor unions supported by Amway heir and one of the state’s largest GOP donors, Rich DeVoss, passed both houses of Michigan’s legislature and was signed into law by Republican governor Rick Snyder in just a few days.
They got all that done. No problem.
But the issue of Medicaid expansion, which could cover 300,000-500,000 poor Michiganders who earn too much to currently qualify for subsidized health care, was left to the last minute — because saving lives and eventually lowering everyone’s health insurance rates just isn’t a priority for Michigan’s Republicans.
It began in February. After his sudden attack on unions made him one of the most vulnerable governors in the nation, Governor Snyder followed fellow Republican swing-state governors Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and John Kasich (R-OH) in announcing that he wanted his state to accept Medicaid expansion as offered to states through the Affordable Care Act.
The Tea Partiers who dominated the state legislature opposed expansion as if it were Obama himself and for months, nothing happened. As the end of the legislative session neared without the law the governor needed to give his state and the federal government the six months they would need to implement expansion, Snyder stepped up the pressure. He brought in Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to beg Republicans to let the $1.5 billion Michiganders will be paying anyway go back into the state’s economy.
This was too much for the Tea Party.
“Governor Snyder has gone too far by seeking help from one of the most polarizing figures in modern history, a representative of the most destructive American President of our history as a nation,” local leaders wrote in a letter and vowed to sit out the governor’s re-election campaign in 2014.
But just days after Arizona’s Brewer overcame Tea Party opposition to pass expansion in her state, Michigan’s House of Representatives finally voted on the “Healthy Michigan” compromise.
About half of the Republican caucus joined Democrats in passing the bill.
Governor Snyder cheered the result and instructed the Senate to finish the deal while he made a week-long trip to Israel.
Of course, as the governor toured the Holy Land, Senate Republicans refused to take a vote.