SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Governor Bruce Rauner’s plan to influence the national healthcare debate is to wait and see what happens next.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote in the Senate on Tuesday, bringing Republicans one step closer to repealing President Obama’s signature health law, the Affordable Care Act. In a narrow 51-50 vote, the Senate filed a motion to proceed into the next phase of debate.
Governor Rauner’s office responded to the vote in an email to WCIA, which said, “The governor is eager to see how Congress resolves the debate over the Affordable Care Act. As you know, the situation in Washington has been changing on a near daily basis and he is holding judgment until there is a final product and plan on the table. That’s when he’ll be able to assess what this really means for Illinoisans.”
The statement provided by new Communications Director Laurel Patrick paints Rauner as a referee instead of a player. While no governor has a vote in Congress, several popular Republican governors in deep blue states have taken a more vocal stance against repealing Obamacare. Governors John Kasich of Ohio, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Maryland’s Larry Hogan are a few Republicans who have signed letters to Congress urging a more moderate solution.
Democrats running for a chance to oppose Rauner in 2018 are calling on him to speak out against a repeal plan that could drastically reduce the recently expanded Medicaid population.
State Senator and Democratic primary candidate Daniel Biss said the “Senate vote brings us closer than ever to millions of Illinoisans losing their healthcare. Maybe now, Governor Rauner will feel like he has a ‘motion to proceed’ to get off his duff and actually speak out against Trumpcare.”
Biss, a progressive, supports a national single payer system, which Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has labeled “Medicare for all.”
Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker criticized the Senate Republicans for lack of transparency in a motion he called calloused. “This negligent attack on healthcare was cobbled together behind closed doors without the public scrutiny a bill of this magnitude deserves.”
The motion to proceed did not include any specific language on what a replacement plan might look like. Live updates on the Congressional debate are available here.
Six weeks ago, President Trump called the Senate Republicans plan to replace Obamacare “mean” in an interview. Pritzker echoed that line from President Trump in his statement opposing the repeal effort.
“While our own governor stands idly by, Senate Republicans blindly voted to proceed without a plan other than the underlying mean-spirited House Republican proposal that would strip coverage from more than 20 million Americans.”
On Saturday, before the vote in the Senate, Democratic primary candidate Chris Kennedy criticized the pending repeal effort, saying, “I think that if the Republicans were allowed to do what they’ve tried to do in the House, or what they are failing to do in the Senate that we would throw hundreds of thousands of people out of healthcare in our state, we would rob ourselves of federal funds that are coming in propelling our economy, we would violate anybody’s idea of moral, social justice, and we would do great economic harm to our future.”
Pressed on what specific plan he would support, Kennedy said, “Keep Obamacare in place. Keep Medicaid and Medicare fully funding. Fund our children’s insurance programs just like they are today and don’t let those people in Washington touch any of that.”
He also called Governor Rauner a “Libertarian disguised as a Republican.”
“Just like [Rauner] wears that Carhartt jacket around as a disguise, so too did he wear that label as a Republican,” Kennedy said at a campaign stop in the Windsor Park Lutheran Church on Chicago’s South Shore. “As a Libertarian, he doesn’t believe there’s a role for government in helping people, in providing quaity healthcare, in educating their children or in higher education.”
Reverend Anthony Williams hosted the campaign event. Williams ran for Congress as a Libertarian in 2006 and ran as a Republican in 2008. Williams lost both races to Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. before running again in 2012 as a write-in candidate.
Kennedy said “I don’t know,” to questions about Williams’ political views or party affiliation.
Democratic primary candidate Ameya Pawar’s campaign did not respond to our request for their position on the national healthcare debate.
Governor Rauner has twice before voiced concerns about reversing Medicaid expansion in Illinois, a measure which would be automatically triggered under the current Senate plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.