NASHVILLE — The state Senate this morning approved legislation requiring Gov. Bill Haslam to seek and win legislative approval before expanding Medicaid to an estimated 180,000 low-income Tennesseans under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Republican-backed bill passed 23-6 on largely partisan vote with several Democrats charging it demonstrates majority GOP lawmakers don't trust fellow Republican Haslam.
The bill passed the House last month, but the Senate-passed version includes an amendment that must be approved by the House.
Haslam objected to the original bill which flatly ruled out expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee. It was amended to require lawmakers approve any deal he is able to cut with the Obama administration on his so-called "Tennessee Plan." Haslam, who has said all along he would bring any agreement for approval, then adopted a neutral position on the bill.
Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, said in his view the legislation goes too far because it appears to prevent Haslam from making decisions that would lead to any agreement with federal officials that ultimately would come before the General Assembly. His effort to permit that failed on a 19-11 vote.
Democrats' efforts to amend the bill largely failed except for one amendment: If Haslam does reach an agreement on Medicaid expansion with the federal government and calls lawmakers into special session to consider it, they will be working on their own dime. The amendment says they will not be paid their usual per diem.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...