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Senate president vows to block Medicaid expansion plan

Andy Biggs wins bid for Arizona Senate President

Senate President Andy Biggs (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Senate President Andy Biggs said Tuesday he would do “everything I can” to prevent Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to expand Medicaid from reaching the Senate floor for a vote.

Biggs, R-Gilbert, told the Arizona Capitol Times that while he believes Brewer’s controversial proposal will get to a vote in the upper chamber, he won’t help it get there.

“I have said that I’m unalterably opposed to it. I believe it would do irreparable harm to the state,” said Biggs, who later added, “I will do everything I can to prevent it from going to the floor.”

As Senate president, Biggs holds the authority to schedule floor debates and votes and therefore can greatly influence the fate of the Medicaid expansion plan.

However, Biggs acknowledged the proposal could get to a vote even without his approval if a majority of senators maneuver to force a vote on the issue  –  in other words, if he gets “rolled.’’

“I have said I believe it gets to the floor,” Biggs told the Capitol Times. “That’s what I’ve said all along, that I expect the bill to get to the floor.”

When pressed, in theory, on how the maneuver might occur, Biggs said,  “I’m not going to tell the world how they can roll me.”

Biggs’ statement this morning contradicts the prevailing sentiment at the Capitol and the signals coming from his office that while he would vote “no,” he won’t block the proposal’s way to the floor.

The Senate president also reiterated that he won’t allow the late introduction of a bill, potentially stalling efforts to vote on Medicaid expansion as a stand-alone measure.   Among the alternatives would be to include the proposal in the state budget.

Brewer’s proposal  would provide health care to residents earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line.   Negotiations on the plan have had little effect so far, as both Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, have said they are opposed to the expansion.

Biggs said alternatives have been proposed to the governor, such as ways to deal with the childless adult population  but indicated that Brewer has offered little room for compromise.  The Senate president  declined to provide specifics of his proposals.

“We’ve discussed some options with the governor and her staff, but she’s indicated that she’s all in on Medicaid expansion,” Biggs said.
“And people like myself are all out on Medicaid expansion, meaning no for us.”

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