Virginia is for lovers. Lovers of quid pro quo. As the state anticipates the trial of their former governor Bob McDonnell for accepting gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams and the fallout from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss last week continues—a disgusting story about state lawmaker shenanigans has slipped under the radar. And yes, it’s about denying health care to 400,000 Virginians that wouldn’t cost the state a dime for nearly three years.
Here’s the story: Democratic Senator Phillip P. Puckett resigned from his seat, and was reportedly about to be offered a new job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission. “The commission is a 31-member body made up of legislative and gubernatorial appointees; its chairman and vice chairman are Republicans,” according to the Washington Post.
In response to the uproar this caused, he later withdrew his name from consideration for the job. Puckett’s resignation also cleared the way for his daughter to be nominated for a judgeship (the state senate won’t nominate family members of any sitting legislator). Normally this wouldn’t be notable, but in this case there is something bigger at stake. With Senator Puckett resigning, majority control of the Virginia State Senate went to state Republicans that have been trying to thwart Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s efforts to expand Medicaid in the state.
The new Republican, anti-expansion majority promptly joined the already anti-expansion House of Delegates and swiftly passed a budget excluding any provision to expand Medicaid. And they also tried to tie the hands of Governor Terry McAuliffe, explicitly denying him the ability to unilaterally include it. While the politics continue at the state capitol building, 400,000 of the people they pledged to serve are without affordable health care coverage.
This is everything ugly about politics: backroom dealings and greedy politicians attempting to line their own pockets while 400,000 Virginians go without health care that wouldn’t cost the state a dime.
It’s hard to say where the story will end up. But it’s clear that the opponents of providing health care coverage in Virginia, which was the first state to sue the federal government over the Affordable Care Act (a mere six minutes after the law was signed in 2010), will do anything to keep denying health care to the people who need it most.
Maybe this is why people hate politics.