Are political standoffs a good thing?

WASHINGTON — With tension building ahead of Virginia’s General Assembly session, several leading lawmakers suggested this week that butting heads on major issues is not always a bad thing.

“There are philosophical differences and I think that’s good for the system I gotta tell ya, I mean I think there are certain things we just have very strong beliefs on, and so you’re probably not going to see a lot of cooperation [on those],” House Majority Leader Del. Kirk Cox says.

Republicans have control of both houses of the General Assembly, which poses a problem for Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe who wants to expand Medicaid to cover about 400,000 more Virginians.

In a boost for the governor that was months in the making, the association representing Virginia hospitals sent him a letter this week indicating that the hospitals were willing to pay a tax to help expand Medicaid in Virginia. Much of the money from expanded Medicaid would flow through the hospitals, and the association believes additional revenue could help the budgets of a number of rural hospitals that are operating the red.

Republicans point to growing cost estimates for the existing Medicaid program, and what they call waste in the existing system. Republican leaders in the General Assembly also say that they do not believe the federal government will actually continue to fund the promised significant portion of any Medicaid expansion down the road because of the growing national debt.

Democratic Senate Caucus Chairman Donald McEachin says that the end of the day, senators on both sides all just want what is best for the commonwealth.

“There are things that there will be no common ground on, that’s why there are two political parties, we do have deep-seated beliefs on certain issues, but that does not mean that on my side of the aisle we should back off of those issues just because we think the other side is not going to agree we need to continue to articulate those positions and continue to have that conversation in the court of public opinion because that’s how society advances and that’s how the dialogue advances,” he says.

Republican Senate Caucus Co-Chairman Ryan McDougle joins Cox in saying that the GOP can and will work with McAuliffe on some issues like economic development, veterans and K-12 education.

“When you get to things like pre-K, you know obviously I think the governor likes a universal model more than we do, but having said that I do think there is some room to compromise especially if we can build in true private-public partnerships,” Cox says.

“Typically at the beginning of the sessions you will see a lot of political or hot button issues…but they will – most of them – be very short lived, and after about two weeks, they’ll be gone, they’ll be in the history of legislative discussion never to have passed, some of them never even to [have] seen life in a committee for very long, and then we’ll get down to the things that are really important,” McDougle says.

The wide-ranging two-year budget proposal set to be fully unveiled by McAuliffe Dec. 17 is expected to dominate the session.

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