The resignation of state Senator Phillip Puckett gives Republicans
a one-vote majority in the chamber. McAuliffe, a Democrat, had hoped
the Senate would support a widening of Medicaid to 400,000
Virginians under the federal Affordable Care Act, a proposal
Medicaid expansion has led to a standoff between McAuliffe and
lawmakers over the state budget. It must be approved by the end of
the month to avoid a possible government shutdown on July 1.
Puckett, from southwest Virginia, said on Monday evening saying he
had resigned "due to the recent issues that have developed in our
family," which he declined to outline, according to a statement
posted on the Washington Post website.
He also said his resignation would open the door for the Senate to
confirm his daughter to a full six-year term as a judge. She had
been serving on a temporary appointment.
The Virginia House of Delegates, the state's lower chamber,
confirmed Puckett's daughter this year for a full term. But the
Senate refused, citing a policy against appointing the relatives of
a sitting legislator to a judgeship.
But Puckett denied a report, published in the Richmond
Times-Dispatch newspaper, that he may be offered a high-ranking job
on the state's Republican-controlled Tobacco Commission. Commission
Chairman Terry Kilgore told the newspaper that he was interested in
offering Puckett a job.
However, The Washington Post, citing sources, reported on Monday
that Puckett was withdrawing his name from consideration for a job
with the Tobacco Commission.
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Puckett’s resignation gives Republicans a 20-19 Senate majority and
perhaps a wall against expansion of Medicaid, the federal healthcare
program for the poor.
But three Republican senators are willing to expand healthcare
coverage, perhaps through a private marketplace. The House of
Delegates has opposed Medicaid expansion.
McAuliffe said in a statement that he would continue to work with
the Senate on a budget that would help widen healthcare coverage.
Stephen Farnsworth, a political analyst with the University of Mary
Washington, called the resignation a smart move by Republicans and
“Medicaid expansion is not dead,” he said, “but it was rushed to the
emergency room today."
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; additional reporting by Edith Honan)
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