COLUMBUS — Some of the Ohio legislative session’s testiest issues — guns, abortion and outgoing Republican Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion — may yet see reversals before year’s end.
Lawmakers reconvene Thursday for rare post-Christmas floor sessions where several Kasich vetoes are poised for potential override. Ohio House spokesman Brad Miller says “everything is on the table.”
That includes Kasich’s June 30, 2017, veto protecting the future of his hard-fought Medicaid expansion. His action struck down a provision of the two-year state budget that called for freezing new Medicaid expansion enrollment that July and preventing those who dropped off the program from re-enrolling.
Fellow Republicans in the Legislature supported the item as a way of containing the state’s staggering Medicaid costs. The expansion was made possible through former President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul, which many Republicans opposed.
For his part, Kasich sees the expansion as separate from the law commonly known as Obamacare. Advocates argue it has helped save costs in other areas of the state budget, by reducing the need for other types of government help for low-income recipients.
“Our messaging really is that Medicaid expansion has worked exactly as everyone hoped it would,” said Amanda Wurst, who speaks for a coalition of 200 organizations that support the expansion. Among them are doctors and other health care professionals, consumer advocates and businesses.
House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, said he wasn’t aware of strong support within the Republican caucus for overriding Kasich on the issue.
“I frankly doubt it,” he said. “With a new administration coming in, there are those that believe we should make that decision in consultation with the new administration. Of course, that could change.”
But some of Kasich’s fellow Republicans in the House, peeved at their governor for sending back so many of their bills, might call a vote on the Medicaid issue as a show against him.
The outgoing governor also rejected a Republican-backed bill that broadened gun-owner rights and one that outlawed abortion at the first fetal heartbeat. Overrides are being considered on both.
But the veto override considered most likely is of a bill granting pay raises to elected officials. The increases were attached to death benefit increases for slain public safety officers, prompting Kasich to label it “a grubby money bill.”
In an angry response, Seitz called the veto “Grinchlike,” accusing Kasich of betraying the principles on which he was elected.
Seitz said the governor defended compensation increases within his own administration as a tool to “call people to service,” yet denying long overdue increases to legislators and non-judicial officials — “many of whom, unlike the Governor, are not independently wealthy and are not in anticipation, as he is, of landing a seven-figure salary as a TV talk show commentator.”
Kasich, a 2016 presidential candidate, is weighing another White House bid in 2020. He has said a media job may be in his short-term plans.
It was unclear how motivated lawmakers would be to override Kasich on the heartbeat bill, which he has vetoed twice over concerns it is unconstitutional and would put Ohio on the hook for a costly court battle.
He vetoed the gun legislation more for what it lacked than for what it contained. In a veto message, Kasich called it “baffling and unconscionable” that lawmakers wouldn’t even debate a so-called “red flag” law, for example, that would allow gun rights to be temporarily stripped from people who show warning signs of violence.
He noted that “even the National Rifle Association” supports the concept.