Upset at what her office called the "final straw" by Republicans refusing to proceed on her plan to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) responded Tuesday by calling a special session to force lawmakers to advance the issue.
Brewer's move followed an announcement by top Republicans that they would delay further debate on budget plans including Brewer's Medicaid expansion proposal. Earlier in the week, a panel in the state House controlled by conservative Republicans rejected her plan outright.
With Arizona law requiring the state to have a budget in place by July 1, Brewer was apparently running out of patience. Her spokesman, Matthew Benson, told reporters that Republicans' latest move to extend the already months-long skirmish over the Medicaid provision had forced Brewer's hand.
“The governor has been extraordinarily patient these last five months in working with leadership of the House and Senate,” Benson told reporters, according to the Arizona Republic. “But it’s time to move forward. This will allow the Legislature to complete the people’s business.”
Moderate lawmakers in both chambers of the state legislature, whose ranks reportedly include enough Republicans to pass Brewer's budget package, took control on Tuesday evening after voting to suspend normal rules, the Associated Press reported. The maneuver allowed them to skirt the requisite committee hearings and limit debate on the divisive legislation.
Under special session, the budget bills containing Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan will be debated Wednesday, with final passage expected Thursday.
The war over Medicaid in Arizona has fostered a number of unusual partnerships and rivalries as Brewer, a foe of President Barack Obama's health care law, has sought to wrangle support for a key provision of the landmark reform. Brewer's plan is expected to add about 300,000 people to the state's Medicaid rolls.
Conservative Republicans were quick to denounce Brewer's decision to strong-arm opponents of the measure.
"We are frustrated and bewildered by her overt hostility and disregard for the budgetary process which was already well under way," state House Speaker Andy Tobin (R) and state Senate President Andy Biggs (R) said in a statement. "The blatant disrespect and reckless practices exhibited by this Executive are less than what was expected of her and more than should be tolerated."
But Democrats stood up for Brewer, saying that her reaction was an appropriate response to Republican obstruction.
“We had a minority of legislators trying to hold up a majority of legislators and the governor,” state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D) told the Republic. “That’s not how this process is supposed to work.”
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