Arkansas House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) said he’s confident that the supermajority of 75 votes will be achieved in order to pass an appropriation bill needed to fund the “private option” health insurance program.
State lawmakers are efforting to secure the votes for an insurance model they’ve largely crafted that would take Medicaid expansion money from the federal health care law and use it to subsidize plans for low-income workers in a forthcoming health insurance exchange.
Speaking on KARK’s “Capitol View” political program, Carter said, “I’m an optimist and I refuse to believe that we’re not going to make the right decision for the state of Arkansas.”
“If we wait around, if we do nothing and sit around and wait for the federal government to solve this problem, I will be old and gray and the state will be broke,” Carter added.
He said he is not concerned that U.S. Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has not read the Arkansas plan. Sebelius told Arkansas Cong. Tim Griffin (R) on Friday that she had not reviewed the bill under discussion because it was not yet law.
Carter said, “I don’t care if she’s read it or not. I want her to approve it after we pass it. But if they don’t approve it, there’s no deal. We’re in a strong negotiating position right now.”
He added that the measure has plenty of safeguards and outlet clauses should Sebelius or HHS not grant Arkansas full authority to undertake the “private option” plan.
“This is about Arkansas taking control of our health care system. And if they don’t approve it, they don’t approve. But guess what? The bill doesn’t go into effect. That’s one of several triggers and conditions upon which we are willing – the state of Arkansas – to take on this private option, to do something different than the federal government has always done,” Carter said.
The Speaker also defended his decision to defer a vote on the appropriation for the measure until Monday. He said lawmakers wanted to visit with constituents in informational forums back home.
“They wanted the opportunity to go back and explain to them what they’ve learned over the past several weeks,” he said. “It seemed like a reasonable request and that’s why I granted that.”
Several undecided lawmakers have communicated via Twitter, Facebook and local news outlets that they support the “private option” plan after weekend forums. Reps. Stephen Meeks (R-Vilonia) and Randy Alexander (R-Fayetteville) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) have all seemingly come on board.
On Monday, Carter said he’s ready to move forward with a vote.
“I’m going to go all in to punch it over the goal line and make sure that happens,” he said.
You can view Carter’s full interview at the bottom of this post.
Also on this week’s “Capitol View,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette political columnist and Sunday Morning Buzz talk show host Bill Vickery chimed in on developments.
“Who wins the weekend? That’s what it comes down to,” said Brummett.
“I know a lot of folks don’t want to make a move without understanding where their constituency falls,” Vickery said. “In Washington, they talk about the ‘common ground’ people with the ‘stand your ground’ people. I think there’s a little bit of that going on inside the Arkansas legislature right now.”
Vickery said the dynamic at the capitol has evolved over the past few sessions and that’s making the negotiating taking part a new political animal.
“This isn’t the old days of back rooms where you could persuade somebody with some general improvement money for their district or something like that. This is a new era now. You’ve got guys that want to go back home and work their district,” Vickery said.
“It’s more than that,” said Brummett. “We’ve had a Republican revolution in this state and it was fueled largely by people’s resentment of Pres. Obama and his health care reform. And now the first conservative, Republican majority legislature we’ve had since Reconstruction, it is now about to – I’m not going to say implement Obamacare – but they are about to agree to an expenditure of money that is part of what the President’s plan was all about.”
Brummett and Vickery also weighed in on former Fourth District Cong. Mike Ross’ expected entry in the 2014 Governor’s race. Ross is expected to announce his campaign this coming Wednesday. You can view Brummett’s and Vickery’s analysis in the video below Carter’s.