Nepotism Might Have Just Doomed Virginia's Medicaid Expansion

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Virginia's Republicans might have made a Democratic state senator an offer he couldn't refuse: leave the Senate ASAP, and we'll finally confirm your daughter for her judgeship and even find you a new job.  In return, Republicans will take the Senate majority, and liberals' plan to expand Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians will breath its last unexpanded breath.

What we know is this: According to The Washington Post, state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately. Thanks to a Senate policy against appointing the relatives of serving legislators, Martha Puckett Ketron, his daughter, has been waiting to be confirmed for her six-year term as a district court judge. With her dad's resignation, the road is clear. Meanwhile, Puckett will become deputy director of the state tobacco commission, a job he wouldn't have gotten without Republican support. 

(Update 2:31 pm: Following backlash from Democrats, state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett won't be the deputy director of the state tobacco commission after all. The Washington Post reports that Puckett will stay with his current job, according to people familiar with the matter.)

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Whether Puckett is just a really, really nice dad or was bribed is yet to be determined — Republicans argue the former and Democrats the latter — but the GOP's next step is to use their new 20-19 Senate majority (they already control the House) to pass a budget that doesn't fund the Medicaid expansion. But even then, Gov. Terry McAuliffe isn't on board with the idea. Last month he and his supporters were looking into way to expand Medicaid without the legislature, at the risk of bringing on a lawsuit. Sarah Kliff at Vox notes the state has until the end of the month to pass a budget. If McAuliffee just refuses to pass the GOP's budget, the state would experience its first government shutdown. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.