TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Tensions at the Kansas Capitol are intensifying Wednesday as the Republican Senate President tries to hold Medicaid expansion legislation hostage.
Lawmakers are now trading jabs as they wrestle over abortion rights and expanding Medicaid. In the meantime, both bills are at a standstill.
It all started when the ‘Value Them Both’ bill, a possible constitutional amendment on abortion, failed to pass through the Kansas House by four votes. Shortly after, Senate President Susan Wagle, a strong proponent of the bill, announced that she will not allow Medicaid expansion to be debated in the Senate, despite its bipartisan support.
Wagle is running for the U.S. Senate seat that will be left open by retiring Senator Pat Roberts. Some say she is holding Medicaid expansion hostage in order to gain support from conservative, pro-life voters. But Wagle says she has always been a pro-life advocate.
Senator Wagle alleges Governor Kelly used threats and scare tactics to sway lawmaker votes and block the abortion amendment from passing.
“She inserted herself into this process. She’s quite angry, she wants Medicaid Expansion,” said Wagle.
Governor Kelly stated that is not the case.
“I understand that there are those who use those bullying tactics to get things done,” said Kelly. “That’s never been my style, it’s still not my style.”
Wagle says passing Medicaid Expansion without the abortion amendment, which would give the legislature the power to regulate abortions in the state, would mean taxpayers would be forced to pay for Medicaid abortions.
“When you pass Medicaid expansion, which is a 90% match from the Federal Government and a 10% match from the State, that 10% funds all of the abortions,” said Wagle. “Because at the Federal level the Hyde amendment is intact and it doesn’t allow any federal money for abortions.”
However, opponents say this is not true.
“It’s really a bogus issue to think that taxpayers are going to be paying for abortions if Medicaid is expanded,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. “It’s really trying to trump up an issue just to put fear in people.”
Wagle says she has received support from Kansans, even those that would benefit from Medicaid expansion.
“They’re okay with us holding on Medicaid expansion until we pick up a few more votes for that constitutional amendment so the people of Kansas can vote,” explained Wagle.
In order for the constitutional amendment on abortion to end up on a state-wide ballot for Kansans to vote, it would need to once again be debated by the House. Last week, after an hours-long stand-off, the vote failed, four votes shy of the needed two-thirds majority.
Senate Democrats are looking to secure enough votes to bring the Medicaid expansion bill to the Senate floor in spite of Wagle’s objections.
“We have to have at least 24 votes with a group of senators, both Republicans and Democrats, who would be willing to stand up and support a motion to bring the Medicaid expansion bill out of committee,” explained Hensley. He believes this could be possible.
Governor Laura Kelly says she is hopeful Medicaid expansion will be passed quickly.
“This is really not an issue between me and them. This really is an issue about the Kansas people,” said Kelly. “When Senator Jim Denning and I came together and announced our bipartisan agreement on Medicaid expansion, the people of Kansas were thrilled. That’s how they want us to work. They want us to work together.”
Both Senator Denning and Governor Kelly believe Medicaid expansion can be passed and implemented by January of 2021.