By Gary Joseph Wilson | PA Independent
HARRISBURG – Medicaid expansion is stuck in the waiting room.
State Senate Republicans thwarted several attempts by Senate Democrats to reinsert Medicaid expansion language into the welfare code, and passed the bill Wednesday on a party line vote. The bill now awaits Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature.
Democrats gave impassioned pleas to include Medicare expansion language into the welfare code in order to force the state House of Representatives and the Governor to address the issue.
“We have insurance, why can’t they?” state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, asked while pointing to lobbyists, observers and reporters in the room as people who may be among many Pennsylvanians lacking health insurance.
“They are real human beings too!” Hughes later said on the Senate floor while making a similar point and pounding his fists on the podium.
The Senate voted 40-10 to include Medicaid expansion in the welfare code on Sunday.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, had the language removed during a House rules meeting. The House then passed the welfare code and then sent it back to the Senate for concurrence.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, reminded lawmakers he supports expanding Medicaid but urged them to pass the House revised bill in order to prevent a “dangerous” delay in implementing the state welfare code.
Pileggi said lawmakers were at an “impasse” because even if the Senate reinserted the language, it still faced opposition for a majority of House members and the Governor. Pileggi said Corbett indicated he would veto the welfare code bill if it included Medicaid expansion language, though he did not provide senators with an answer in writing.
“Obviously, if it is a legislative solution, the governor would have to sign the legislation at the end of the process,” he said. “And if the governor would express that point of view, that would help with getting it through the House.”
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, twice tried a parliamentary maneuver to revert the welfare code bill back to how it appeared in a prior printing, when it still contained the Medicaid language. Hughes attempted to insert an amendment into the welfare code that also would have reinserted expansion language. Both efforts were defeated by Republicans in party-line votes.
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