Governors skeptical of shutdown threat in healthcare fight

Michigan Public Radio Network

Much of the talk this past weekend at the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island was about efforts in Congress to cut funding for the federal healthcare law. In fact, some Republican governors have big concerns about the effects of that effort on their states’ bottom lines.

Republican members of Congress showed up to the conference on Mackinac fresh off a controversial vote. It uses the threat of a government shutdown as leverage to cut off funding for the health coverage law known as Obamacare.

“It’s like trying to un-bake a cookie,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga. “How do you un-bake the cookie? And that’s the difficulty.

“This is the one lever point that we have in the House of Representatives, is the power of the purse, and it makes sense to me that we have a clear message that we want government to stay open. We just believe that this part of government needs to go away.”

But to use that lever, for it to be effective, Republicans have to be ready to shut down government.

There were about 15 hundred Michigan Republican activists at the conference who heard from state GOP leaders, strategists, and national figures. One of those national figures was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He rejected an expansion of the Medicaid program in his state under the federal healthcare law. But he said a government shutdown would be irresponsible.

Walker said he’s no fan of Obamacare, “but I also believe that government should be limited , but the government we have left should work, and so that’s why I don’t believe we should shut the government down.”

Walker’s host, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, did agree to take federal money to extend Medicaid to working poor people. He also thinks a shutdown would be a colossal mistake. The governor said one of his first tasks this week is making contingency plans.

“It’s really difficult stuff because, you’re talking, if it’s a federal shutdown, roughly the number we get from the federal government to the state government that we pass through is 15 to 20 billion dollars,” he said. “That’s a huge impact on millions of Michiganders.”

If Republicans succeed in defunding the healthcare law, that would also sink Governor Snyder’s “Healthy Michigan” Medicaid expansion. But he said that’s a less-urgent issue right now than the prospect of a federal shutdown.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul was also at the conference. The Tea Party hero and possible presidential contender said the time has probably passed to simply scrap the federal healthcare law, and Republicans might be wise to turn their efforts to amending the law.

“I want to defund Obamacare,” he said in a speech to the conference. “But if we get it less bad. I’ll take that, too. I may not get my way. We only control the House. We don’t control the Senate. We don’t control the presidency.”

That puts Rand Paul at odds with some in his party who see the budget standoff as their last, best chance lay Obamacare to rest. But it didn’t stop Paul from topping the list of presidential contenders in a straw poll of Republicans at the Mackinac Island conference.

Copyright 2013, MPRN