Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In Richmond, the Impasse Could Get Worse

Virginia state capitol in Richmond.
Our Richmond representatives are in town for a few days, while the state budget stews, unpassed, and I had a chance yesterday to chat with a few of them and some staffers about what's up.

Seems there are two important items facing them: Medicaid expansion and redistricting, which is several years away. The former is being blockaded by a group of hardline right-wingers in the Republican Party who are threatening their own caucus members in order to form a unified front against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Without those threats, I'm assured, compromise would not just be possible, it would be probable.

Republicans have, just this past year, eliminated several of their own representatives for supporting a tax increase for a vital transportation last year (as did the Republican governor,whose bill it was) and they are threatening everybody who even hints at compromise with the Democrats.

Someone who works with one of our representatives told me that the "atmosphere in the chamber is not as bad as you think, especially when you go one-on-one. But there are a few who simply won't talk" and they're the ones the chamber fears. Greg Habeeb of Salem (who took Morgan Griffith's seat when Griffith was elected to the U.S. House, and is a Griffith acolyte) is pointed to as one of those hardliners. "He's like Griffith without the legislative insider knowledge," said one.

Meanwhile, national right-wingers like Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) are praising House Republicans for blocking any advance on Medicaid. Norquist is an extremist who wielded considerable power over the previous U.S. House Republican members, but fell on hard times recently. The ACA has given him new life and new power.

The other pressing issue is re-districting, which both parties have used to gain unfair advantage in the past. Republicans have become masters at creating safe districts for their representatives on state and national levels and, thus, giving Republicans far more strength in the House and General Assembly than their numbers suggest. Republicans polled less than 50 percent of the House votes in Virginia during the last two or three election cycles, but have nearly two thirds of the seats because of gerrymandering.

Reversing that will be extremely difficult, barring a court intervention, but you also have to consider that a large number of judges are Republican, as well, so court interference would be a stretch.

What do we have? An impasse, which is likely to get worse before it gets better.


No comments:

Post a Comment