GOLDMAN: Democrat McAuliffe praises Republican Watkins for bucking conservatives

Posted at 11:03 AM, Mar 11, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. – Last evening at the Governor’s Mansion, Richmond Republican Senator John Watkins – his district covers more of the city population than any other Senator – received unique praise from Democratic chief executive Terry McAuliffe.

The Governor used the occasion to extol Mr. Watkins’ willingness to provide a key Senate vote on the Medicaid Expansion issue.

Right now, the Governor is at loggerheads with the House of Delegates on the matter.

It caused the budget deadlock and required the Governor to call for a Special Session starting later this month.

I had occasion to talk to Senator Watkins the other day prior to my co-authored Washington Post article proposing THE ONLY TRULY BIPARTISAN APPROACH yet offered, it combines traditional Medicare with Pilotcare, the name for an innovative health care insurance initiative which can get federal approval.

In a nutshell, Pilotcare – without requiring any new state money or threatening the budget or our AAA rating – provides health care in the most cost-effective, reasonable and necessary way for 400,000 Virginians now at risk. Without innovative health care insurance, the health care bills for these indigent Virginians WILL RAISE YOUR health care bills!

Read the Washington Post article here. It has received considerable discussion for offering the one true “Bipartisan solution to VA’s Medicaid standoff.”

Senator Watkins approach is different than mine in many key areas, not the least of which is that his would ultimately cost HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS MORE IN STATE MONEY.

His is called “Marketplace” Virginia but it is basically traditional Medicaid using a different sign-up procedure and a few other wrinkles. Naturally, I think mine – while admittedly innovative – will be more cost effective and provide better health care to needed Virginians in the long run.

But he is at least willing to challenge the current “Just Say No” chorus in the GOP. At least he is willing to join with Democrats in addressing the issue as opposed to “Just Say No.” But right now, he doesn’t have a lot of Republican support in the GOP controlled House of Delegates. Will he get enough fellow Republicans? He is a persuasive guy. He might.

The Governor is right.

Senator Watkins is one of the few Republicans willing to back what his party calls Obamacare. There are conservative GOP forces already planning to challenge his re-nomination by calling him “Obamacare Watkins.” The primary is in 2015.

Governor McAuliffe is being smart in trying to find a way to break the budget deadlock caused by different views on how best to handle the cost and health care problems created by 400000 needy Virginians almost all without true health care insurance. Without insurance, they cannot get preventive medicine needed to prevent huge future medical bills the public – meaning you – will have to continue to pay since they can’t. Remember: We are a good and decent society, so when they show up at the emergency room, they get the best care we offer, no one gets turned away.

These are our fellow Americans.

House Republicans make legitimate points in questioning whether the state can afford what Senator Watkins has proposed long term. My Post article discusses all of this.

But the Governor is right on the fundamental issue raised by the Post column: You can’t legislate 400,000 people out of existence.

Yes, it is a big problem.

However, as Bob Dylan asked years ago, “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Governor McAuliffe is therefore right in singling out Republican Senator Watkins for being willing to expose himself to the “Obamacare Watkins” right side attack.

Watkins use to be a member of the House of Delegates. But right now, his former colleagues and their successors in the other body aren’t backing his play.

They likely fear being the House version of “Obamacare Watkins.”

Governor McAuliffe is facing a tough but winnable test as my Post article points out.

Most in Richmond don’t know Mr. Watkins is our senator.

My money is on the Governor winning the fight in the end. But without Watkins, he might not be able to do it.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.