Gov. Jan Brewer and her allies have a very good case, in fact an overwhelming one, to make for her Medicaid expansion plan on the merits.
Overall, the plan will spend less in state and local public resources to bring in considerably more in federal funds and provide far more extensive health-care coverage to far more low-income Arizonans.
Unless you believe that Arizona should bear a disproportionate burden in reducing federal debt, there’s not much of a substantive argument against it.
However, the political argument being made for the Medicaid expansion ain’t so hot.
Grass-roots Republican groups are up in arms against it, threatening GOP lawmakers who vote for it with primaries. Brewer and her allies say not to worry. They cite three reasons:
Surveys indicate that Republican voters either support or at least aren’t adamantly opposed to the expansion.
The business community will spend beaucoup bucks defending Republican legislators who vote for the expansion and face a primary challenge.
Brewer is wildly popular with GOP voters and will rescue anyone so threatened. Just look at what a huge success the 2010 election was for Republicans after lawmakers voted to refer her temporary tax increase to the ballot.
These are mostly hollow reassurances.
An opponent in a Republican primary will have a simple and powerful political message: The incumbent voted to implement “Obamacare” in Arizona. And that’s true enough for campaign-rhetoric purposes. If the launch of Obamacare is as messy and disruptive as I suspect, that might be an even more toxic association than it is now.
The surveys purporting to show Republican support for the plan are testing policy arguments, not campaign messages. There really isn’t a taut response to the “you supported implementing Obamacare” charge.
Promises of campaign-finance support should always be hugely discounted. And legislative Republican primaries can be won without spending a lot of money.
The notion that Brewer has coattails or can bestow a cloak of political invulnerability to other candidates is particularly far-fetched. Barack Obama, not Jan Brewer, was responsible for the oversize Republican victories in 2010. It happened all across the country.
It’s easier to threaten a primary challenge than to execute one. And a legislative seat shouldn’t be worth trimming your sails for.
Nevertheless, this is a potentially high-risk vote for Republican legislators.
Supporters of public campaign financing in Arizona have threatened to sue to prevent the legislation signed last week by Brewer to substantially increase private campaign-contribution limits from going into effect. They don’t have much of an argument.
The initiative approved by voters establishing Arizona’s system of public campaign financing, Clean Elections, included a provision that reduced private campaign-contribution limits by 20 percent.
Another approved initiative, the Voter Protection Act, says that legislators cannot “amend” a ballot proposition approved by the voters except with a three-fourths vote and to further the measure’s purpose.
According to public-finance supporters, the purpose of the Clean Elections initiative was to encourage the use of public financing and discourage reliance on private campaign contributions.
Substantially increasing what can be raised from private contributions without also substantially increasing the allotment for publicly financed candidates is contrary to the purpose of the initiative.
And it didn’t pass by a three-fourths vote in any event.
That’s all true. But here’s the legal hole in the argument. The bill increasing private contribution limits didn’t “amend” the Clean Elections initiative. It didn’t change a single word.
The Clean Elections initiative did not set a limit on private campaign contributions. It simply said that the limit established elsewhere in state law was to be reduced by 20 percent.
The Legislature increased the referenced amount but didn’t change a word of the initiative.
Convincing a court that something has been “amended” when not a word has been changed or that the Voter Protection Act freezes not only what is actually in the ballot proposition but all other state law to which it refers or relates, will be a tall order.
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