AZ’s Brewer Threatens Tea Party Over Medicaid Expansion, Vetoes Their Pet Project And 4 Other Bills


Arizona’s conservative GOP lawmakers are getting a taste of their own medicine as fellow-bully, Governor Jan Brewer, flexes her muscles in their direction for a change. After refusing to participate in setting up a state health insurance exchange, Brewer has done an about-face of sorts in eagerly embracing Medicaid expansion. It’s all about the money, of course, but diehard conservatives would shoot the state in the financial foot rather than cooperate with the Obama administration. Brewer, however, is refusing to sign any of the legislature’s bills into law until she gets her way on both Medicaid expansion and a completed state budget for 2014. On Friday, she vetoed five bills to punctuate her position.

One of the vetoed bills Brewer was a pet project of Tea Party conservatives: HB 1178, designed to allow churches and businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation while claiming they are exercising ‘religious freedom.’ In all five veto letters, addressed to Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, the governor wrote:

“It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat. I respectfully ask that legislators join me to resolve our budgetary and health care challenges. Once these primary issues are behind us, I am happy to once again consider unrelated legislation.”

The message is, tangle with Brewer at your own peril. This is the woman who dared to literally poke her finger in President Obama’s eye in plain view of the world, who signed the notorious anti-immigration legislation SB 1070, who was mean-spirited enough to deny drivers licenses to Dreamers on the very day last year that they became eligible to apply for deportation deferrals, and who has taken every opportunity to deny healthcare to women. It’s no small task to create such a wide swath of destruction through the political minefield of human rights, but Brewer has nothing if not an oversized dose of chutzpah.

The state Senate has already voted in favor of Brewer’s Medicaid expansion, with six Republicans joining Democrats to amend and pass her proposed legislation. The governor’s vetoes are meant to coerce the House into cooperation, but Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, is none too happy about having his arm twisted. Even before the vetoes, he said:

“The deal [on the expansion] was put together on the other side, and I wasn’t included. It’s not a process that I’ve seen happen before.”

Not only are Republican lawmakers at odds with each other, those who side—or might side–with Governor Brewer are receiving death threats from their more rabid right-wing constituents. According to the Arizona Republic, Speaker Tobin and eight other lawmakers received an email that began:

“Please kill SB1492, the Medicaid Expansion Act.”

It then outlines a defense for shooting someone, while quoting the Second Amendment. Other messages are abusive and threatening. Some lawmakers are decrying all the animosity, both within the House and from voters–but perhaps they should be looking at how all that animosity started in the first place.

The hostility shows no sign of abating. In an attack on the six Republican senators who voted for Medicaid expansion, the chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party, A.J. LaFaro penned his own threat in an open letter to lawmakers, writing:

“Their egregious actions will have serious consequences. Their political careers are all but over and their days are numbered.”

Unfazed, and to their credit, the six senators have replied that the favorable feedback for their vote on expansion far exceeds the negative. The positive comments received by Senate Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, outnumber the negative by “20 to 1.”

It’s heartening for the citizens of Arizona to see that some in the Republican Party are actually ready to do the people’s business. As Governor Brewer, herself, pointed out on her official website:

“The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Now, our State’s elected leaders have a duty to do what’s best for Arizona. That’s why Governor Brewer has crafted a conservative plan that … upholds the will of Arizonans, who’ve twice voted to expand Medicaid … pumps billions of dollars into our economy … protects hospitals … and keeps Arizona tax dollars in Arizona.”

Let there be no mistake. Brewer has not had a change of her black heart on social issues; it’s those “dollars” that motivate her. But the effect of setting the GOP against itself is a hopeful sign of a shift in political winds. And Arizona is long overdue for some hope.

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