Jan Brewer: Governor Upholds Moratorium, Stops Signing Bills Until Arizona House Passes Medicaid Expansion

Following through on her promise not to sign any new bills into law until the Arizona state legislature approves a 2014 budget and approves a bill accepting Medicaid expansion through the federal Affordable Care act, Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed five new, unrelated bills last Friday. Though this bold move will temporarily stall several indisputably worthy bills, the protracted conflict surrounding the expansion bill, which recently passed in the State Senate but has been stalled in the House for months, left Brewer with little choice.  

In an open letter to Arizona State Senate President Andy Biggs, on which she copied Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, Brewer explained her dismissal of a bill meant to help failing schools: "I warned that I would not sign additional measures into law until we see resolution of the two most pressing issues facing us: adoption of a Fiscal 2014 State Budget and plan for Medicaid. It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat." She continued urging a resolution to the standstill on the bill, citing the fact that the House has been in session for over 130 days and there are only weeks left until the end of the fiscal year, by which time tens of thousands of Arizonans would lose coverage without the expansion.

Both her initial endorsement of the expansion in January as well as her steadfast move to push the expansion through come as something of a surprise from the conservative Brewer, who was traditionally one of Obama's biggest opponents. Governor Brewer's rejection of her party's general ideology directly contrasts with her more traditionally conservative policies, most famously her signing into law 2 years ago of the most restrictive, draconian bill on immigration in the U.S. But Brewer is also a shrewd politician, and there is no arguing with the simple fact that passing the Medicaid expansion in Arizona would be both more financially viable and cover more citizens than the alternative suggested by opponents of the bill. The opposing plan, which completely rejects federal aid through Medicaid, would insure an additional 60,000 and cost the state $850 million over 30 years. If the expansion passes, federal aid would reduce state costs to $100 million over 3 years, and would expand coverage by 300,000 Arizonans.

While Brewer's latest move in her battle against her own party members might come off as a little harsh, the situation has certainly been heated on both sides. Pro-expansion GOP representatives have been receiving threatening emails and voicemail messages calling on them to change their minds. Most disturbingly, an anti-expansion voter left an obscene, violent message on State Representative Kate Brophy McGee's voicemail in response to her support of the bill. Another group against the bill has included a detailing of the Second Amendment as grounds to justify shooting in their script email.

In the end, Brewer's no-nonsense approach to the issue might just be what the House needs to reach a resolution. And though her motivation to do what's right for Arizona may be slightly colored by a desire to save face with Hispanic voters, Brewer's audacity is a welcome departure from myopic party politics.

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Joseph Frankel

New Yorker and student at Brown University interested in Neuroscience, Literature, and issues of public health and social justice.

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