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Could Medicaid Expansion debacle be an opening for House Democrats?


Robocalls. Rallies. Snarky social media comments that are on message.

It's good to be a Florida House Democrat these days.

Just six months ago, they were in the doldrums. They had lost six seats in the November elections and were facing an 81-39 disadvantage in the lower chamber. 

But on Wednesday, the Democrats were in a more celebratory mood. The day before, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told members to go home. The budget impasse was too broad to bridge because of the House's disagreement with the Senate on Medicaid expansion.

The House Democrats have been pushing for Medicaid expansion for three years now. The stalemate between the House Republicans and the Senate on the budget guaranteed exactly what House Democrats couldn't do: force a meaningful debate.

"We've been the adult in the room this year," said Minority Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, to Democrats during a Wednesday caucus meeting. "We were willing to listen and consider alternatives and then everything got dropped."

Although the caucus didn't remain unified on a House budget that was crafted by Republicans and didn't include Medicaid expansion (only 29 of the 39 voted against it), they've been pretty much unified behind Pafford and Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, who has been the lead policy adviser on the issue.

"We stand in stronger position because of this issue," Pafford told members. "The one issue that they don't want to talk about, we've forced them to talk about. We've been disciplined. Give yourself a hand. We kicked some ass."

Democratic leaders urged members to use social media to stress three messages: Partisan politics over responsible governing (#LeadershipVacuum; #OwnIt; #TakeMeToYourLeader); Unfinished business (#ThanksforNothing; #Abdication; #SineDead); and Dereliction of Duty (#YouHadOneJob; #Dereliction; #GovernNow).

"The stakes are high," said Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville. "This isn't chess with politicians. This is real life with real consequences."

Democrats plan on staging events at hospitals that are at risk of losing $2.2 billion in money for low income patients. 

Later they released a statement titled: "House Democrats Show Up to Urge Republican Extremists to End Standoff."

House Democrats showed up to work this morning. House Republicans made sure there was nothing to do and members faced a locked chamber.

"Democrats met as scheduled even though the House adjourned and ended its work three days early," the statement said. "No balanced budget was passed. Scores of bills immediately died. A dispute about health care expansion was not resolved."

Ouch. Right on message.

In addition, the Florida House Democratic Party said it's going to make tens of thousands of robocalls in several potentially vulnerable Republican controlled districts.

They are:

HD-37 Richard Corcoran
HD-51 Steve Crisafulli
And targeted seats
HD-29 Scott Plakon
HD-30 Bob Cortes
HD-47 Mike Miller 
HD-49 Rene Placencia
HD-63 Shawn Harrison
HD-67 Chris Latvala
HD-69 Kathleen Peters
HD-89 Bill Hager 
HD-103 Manny Diaz 
HD-114 Erik Fresen 
HD-118 Frank Artiles
This is Lauren with a message about Richard Corcoran, your state representative in Tallahassee, who walked away from his job so he didn’t have to vote on a bipartisan plan to expand access to health care. The plan would have extended health care to 800,000 working Floridians, including over 40,000 military veterans.
But Richard Corcoran put partisan politics first, and Florida’s working families and veterans won’t have affordable health care.
Middle class families and veterans don’t get to quit work when times get tough. Politicians like Richard Corcoran shouldn’t get to either. Floridians deserve better than politicians who play games with their health care.