New Hampshire voters don't really know or care about Florida's fight with the federal government over hospital charity funding and Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. But Marco Rubio used the tussle as an example Friday in Manchester about what he characterized as Washington's threat over state capitals.
An educator at Manchester Community College, where Rubio held his first campaign event since announcing his 2016 presidential candidacy, asked him about Common Core, the controversial education standards that many Granite State Republicans consider a four-letter word.
Rubio said he was "cautious" about giving the federal government any role in setting school curricula.
"I've always made the argument that the federal government always ends up turning a carrot into a stick," he said. "They'll tell you these are the standards we want you to meet, but it's just a carrot. If you do it, we'll give you money. They ultimately turn it into a stick and force you to do it."
Then he pivoted to Florida, where the Republican state House and Gov. Rick Scott are battling the Republican state Senate over whether to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid to plug a budget hole caused by the feds' ending of the indigent-hospital fund known as the low-income pool.
"Just now in Florida there's a big fight going on -- it has nothing to do with education, it has to do with healthcare," Rubio said. He explained LIP and said it "has nothing to do with Medicaid expansion."
"The federal government is now telling Florida, if you don't do Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, we won't give you the LIP money," Rubio said. "And I fear the same thing the same thing's going to happen with a program like Common Core."
Rubio, a former Florida House speaker, later told reporters that he disagrees with the feds.
"I don't think the government should hold them hostage," he said. "And that's what's happening: The federal government is basically telling the state, unless you do something we want on an unrelated matter, you wont get LIP funding. I think it's an example of federal overreach and what federal agencies always do."
Asked a similar question a day earlier in New Hampshire, Rubio's likely rival former Gov. Jeb Bush said the state and federal governments should look for middle ground to resolve the impasse, which is holding up next year's budget. A Bush spokeswoman later added that Bush opposes Medicaid expansion.