Mark Warner: Terry McAuliffe faces tough call on Medicaid expansion

(WJLA) – With fervent opposition from the Virginia House of Delegates to any form of Medicaid expansion, underlined by Thursday night’s passage of a state budget geared toward preventing Gov. Terry McAuliffe from making an executive order to bypass the barriers, does he still have options – legal or otherwise – to keep alive his primary campaign issue?

Appearing Friday morning on NewsChannel 8’s “NewsTalk,” U.S. Senator and former Virginia governor Mark Warner – a proponent of the expansion -- paused when asked about it by host Bruce DePuyt.

“Bruce, I don’t know,” Warner said, pausing again before continuing. “I think the better way would still be to go through a legislative process and see if there is a Virginia-centric way. . .My hope is that there can still be discussions going forward.”

At stake is health insurance for approximately 400,000 low-income residents, which would be accomplished, in part, by accepting funds available through the Affordable Care Act.

Talk of a unilateral move by McAuliffe has been swirling around political circles for a couple of months, as two keen followers of Virginia politics, University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth and University of Virginia scholar Larry Sabato, noted before the budget passage.

So the question remains: Could it still happen?

“The road forward is blocked, as it is, for the governor on Medicaid expansion,” Farnsworth said. “The governor’s team is going to think about ways around. Governors in other states have authorized Medicaid expansion by executive order.”

But in Virginia?

“It would be a very bitter pill, Farnsworth said, “and likely will trigger lots of litigation if McAuliffe tries to go down the same road.”

Added Sabato: “How will people react? It's a polarized era. Democrats will hail the action, Republicans will condemn it.

“But McAuliffe will have center stage at first, and if he uses the bully pulpit well, it might stick. But who knows? The details are too fuzzy right now.”