It’s more rare for a governor to be able to sway Congress as a whole. One example, however, came in early 2013, when New Jersey’s Chris Christie publicly shamed then-Speaker Boehner after he abruptly scrapped a vote on legislation providing aid for Hurricane Sandy recovery just before Congress adjourned. Members of the state’s House delegation then threatened to withhold their support for Boehner as speaker unless Boehner promised to reschedule the vote. The bill passed, and New Jersey got its money.
Kasich, who served in the House for 18 years until 2001, now has a national profile as a result of his presidential run. But he better hope his relationship with Congress is better than his one with Trump; the president-elect on Friday succeeded in ousting Kasich’s ally, Matt Borges, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Working in the governors’ favor, however, is the fact that Trump would not have won the presidency without his victories in Ohio and Michigan—both states that voted for President Obama in 2012.
House GOP leaders formally sought input on health-care reform from governors and state insurance commissioners in a letter in late November. The Senate Finance Committee sent a similar letter to Republican governors, and Kasich will participate in a roundtable the panel is holding on the future of Medicaid next week. Eliminating the program’s expansion under Obamacare is only part of the changes that Republican leaders envision for Medicaid. Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump’s nominee for health secretary, Tom Price, have called for turning it into a block grant for the states. But that reform is likely to be far more politically controversial than repealing the Affordable Care Act.
States would not immediately lose Medicaid funding under the GOP’s “repeal and delay” strategy, which calls for Obamacare to stay on the books for as long as four years while Republicans try to pass and implement a replacement. But neither congressional leaders nor the Trump transition are offering any firm commitments to the governors. “President-elect Trump is committed to working with a wide range of stakeholders, including governors, to ensure that all Americans have access to stable and predictable health plan choices,” Trump spokesman Philip Blando said in a statement. Jennifer Sherman, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said: “We support making Medicaid sustainable, prioritizing the most vulnerable, and empowering states with flexibility to create solutions for their populations.”
The Republican governors are just the latest headache for GOP leaders who are looking to make repeal of Obamacare one of the first bills that Trump signs as president. An increasing number of party lawmakers have raised concerns about voting on repeal before a replacement is ready. At least four Republicans in the Senate have signaled their unease with the strategy (to varying degrees), and the party can afford only two defections if it hopes to undo the law with a simple majority. One of those is Senator Rand Paul, whose home state of Kentucky expanded Medicaid and saw a large reduction in the number of people without insurance.
Another Republican-led state that expanded Medicaid was Indiana. Its governor at the time was Mike Pence, the man who on January 20 will be sworn in as vice president.