RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s General Assembly passed a two-year budget deal late into the night Thursday along with last-minute anti-Medicaid expansion amendments.
After five and a half hours of debate, the Senate voted along party lines 21-18, except for Sen. Lynnwood Lewis, the lone Democrat who backed the plan. The House of Delegates voted 69-31 to green light the budget just before midnight.
Officials said the budget answers the $1.5 billion revenue shortfall by cutting spending and utilizing some of the state’s rainy day fund.
The budget was passed after 20 Republican senators voted to include an amendment which would make any efforts to expand Medicaid by Gov. Terry McAuliffe difficult. Nineteen Democrats voted against that revision.
CBS 6 political reporter Joe St. George tweeted during the session and documented the intense debate.
Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said Medicaid expansion will be closed out for two years because of the amendments.
“Utah for God sake-you telling me Utah is better than our state. I don’t think so,” Saslaw said to GOP members of the Senate.
However, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) encouraged both parties to support the measures and stated that he never told McAuliffe that there would be no floor amendments.
“Tonight a budget will be passed,” Norment said, while adding that the measures do not amount to a death knell to Medicaid expansion
St. George said the most dramatic moment of night came when Sen. Don McEachin announced he had rectal cancer in October. McEachin argued that he was able to receive treatment and have the tumors removed because of insurance he argued all Virginians deserve.
The budget now heads to McAuliffe’s desk.
However, St. George reported that a budget veto is a possibility.
Reaction to the budget from Democrats was swift.
McAuliffe released the following statement:
“This evening’s actions demonstrated how deeply committed Republicans in the General Assembly are to denying 400,000 Virginians access to life saving health care. Instead of moving forward on a plan to close the coverage gap, the Senate of Virginia moved our Commonwealth backward by violating the terms of the bipartisan agreement they reached in last year’s budget,” McAuliffe said. “Virginians deserve better than representatives who put narrow ideology ahead of what is best for our families, economy and budget.”
The governor, who said “this fight is far from over,” plans to evaluate the budget and take necessary actions to do “the right thing” for Virginia.
House Speaker William J. Howell praised lawmakers’ budget that addressed the Commonwealth’s $1.5 billion deficit.
“I am very pleased that the General Assembly was able to put politics aside and pass a budget to avert a government shutdown,”
Howell said. “This is a responsible, conservative budget that closes the $1.5 billion revenue shortfall while protecting investments in some core areas like K-12 education, mental health and the state employee retirement system.
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