The special session that wasn’t

By: - May 25, 2021 3:02 pm
Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz addresses reporters regarding BadgerCare expansion 5/25/21 | Wisconsin Eye

Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz addresses reporters regarding BadgerCare expansion 5/25/21 | Wisconsin Eye

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz told reporters at a press conference today not to be “lulled into a state of ‘they said, they said’” when it comes to covering the special session Gov. Tony Evers called to expand BadgerCare and invest the money in health care and economic development, which Republicans gaveled in and gaveled out on Tuesday.

Rejecting $1.6 billion on the taxpayers’ behalf, Republicans in the Assembly concluded the session 40 seconds after they opened it up with no debate and no votes. The Senate was more efficient in rejecting the plan to give 91,000 Wisconsinites who make between $12,000 – $17,000 a year the chance at affordable, high-quality insurance. It took GOP senators only 10 seconds.

Democrats were present in the Assembly parlor, and told reporters they were there because they wanted to vote. “We’ve seen the polling on this,” said Hintz. “If people around the state were given the decision that Legislators are given, there’s just zero way [they’d agree with Republican actions]. There just isn’t a policy argument to be had here. And that’s why when you are writing about this, I don’t want it to be ‘Democrats say this, Republicans say this, you decide.’” 

With an apology to Assembly Democratic leader Hintz…here’s what ‘they said, they said.’

Democrats said:

Assembly Minority Leader Hintz (D-Oshkosh) at a press conference: “Wisconsin has essentially been handed a $1 billion lottery ticket. The only acceptable answer is to cash it by expanding BadgerCare, and then invest it in our economic recovery.

Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) on Twitter: “But hey, what’s a little human misery when it comes to scoring some political points? What’s the worst that could happen… Oh yeah, it’s healthcare, so people can get sick and die. Psst – they could accept the ACA money without expanding eligibility with a waiver just like several other Republican states have. Their opposition is political, preferring to have worse healthcare outcomes than to give @GovEvers a win.” 

Gov. Tony Evers in a statement: ““It’s breathtaking that after a year of working to prevent us from responding to COVID-19, Republicans would rather keep playing politics with our economic recovery than invest $1 billion into our state’s economy and support communities in their own districts.”

Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) in a statement: “For goodness sake, Mike Pence of all people signed Medicaid expansion into law in Indiana when he was governor there. But, because of their extreme right-wing views, Wisconsin Republicans believe that our own residents don’t deserve access to the same kind of healthcare coverage other Americans currently have? I refuse to mince words: this is shameful, and it is morally repugnant.”

Rep. Daniel Reimer at a news conference
Rep. Daniel Reimer

Rep. Daniel Reimer (D-Milwaukee) at the press conference: “This extra $1 billion would come as a crucial resource for our state and our people as we work to bounce back from the pandemic. The past 14 months have provided some stark reminders of challenges that need to be addressed. I think we should be doing everything we can to make sure our economy bounces back from this pandemic, and this special session was about finding common ground and getting bipartisan support for our efforts. Clearly, it’s disappointing Republicans don’t seem to take that responsibility seriously, and they’ll have to explain to Wisconsinites why they made the decision they did today.”

Rep. Tip McGuire (D-Kenosha) via Twitter: I fully support Gov. Evers’ plan to expand Badgercare and reinvest those funds – which breaks down to an incredible $2 million per day over the next two years – in important economic development projects that will have benefits for years to come.”

Rep. Sara Rodriguez | Wisconsin Eye
Rep. Sara Rodriguez

Rep. Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield) at the press conference: “I’m a nurse and a scientist, which means we should make data based decisions. And I love looking at data to tell a story. With more than a decade of research from states red, blue and purple that expanded their Medicaid program, the data is clear. [These states] that have expanded their Medicaid programs have more positive health outcomes in their population, had more insured individuals and had improvements in health care affordability and better economic stability.” 

Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) in a statement: ““During a once-in-a-century deadly pandemic, communities of color were hit especially hard all across our nation. Wisconsin has some of the worst infant mortality rates for African American children and is deemed as the worst place in the country to raise a Black child. It is disturbing to see Republicans still treat Wisconsinites like political pawns rather than human beings that have a right to afford quality health care.”

Rep. Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield) at the press conference. “I was at a Town’s Association meeting last night and workforce came up. As you know, we have a shortage of workers in this state. And what we need is for them to be healthy. We can’t have people who are supposed to be going to their job calling in sick … If their employer can’t provide them health care, we should be able to help them with this money.”


Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on Twitter: “Republican lawmakers aren’t just working against @GovEvers when they play political games — they’re working against our entire state. And they should have to answer for why they’re blocking health coverage for 90,000 Wisconsinites and getting in the way of our state’s recovery.”

Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) in a statement: “During my time in the legislature, I’ve witnessed some cynical, calculated actions by my Republican colleagues, but this might be the most extreme. … It is not an overstatement to say that this will go down as the worst decision by Wisconsin legislators in modern history. There is literally no downside to expanding Medicaid. All of the tired, Republican arguments using dog whistle terms like “welfare” are simply a distraction from the only core political motive of the Wisconsin GOP – to try and score political points over Governor Evers at the expense of the families and businesses they represent.” 

Treasurer Sarah Godlewski in a statement: “Republican Speaker Robin Vos has responded by holding health care funding and economic relief hostage – and leaving Wisconsin paying the tab for the rest of the country’s Medicaid benefits and getting zilch in return. Even states like Indiana and Oklahoma passed Medicaid expansion and are using our tax dollars to pay for it. As Wisconsin’s fiscal watchdog, I find these actions financially reckless.”

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) in a statement: “They are rejecting money for broadband, veteran housing, rural EMS, and mental health all because they don’t want individuals in every corner of this state to have access to affordable health care coverage.”

There were many more statements, Tweets and comments to the press by Democrats, but it is time to turn to the other side of the aisle to hear what Republicans have against expanding BadgerCare and how they explained their actions.

Republicans said:  

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Nothing. Republicans said nothing. *

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*UPDATE: Three hours after spending seconds to gavel out the special session, Republican leadership sent Evers a letter explaining how Medicaid works and saying that there is no need for action because there is no gap in coverage for people making between 100% of the federal poverty level and 138% which is the level that expanded Medicaid would cover. (Democrats and health care groups point out the option is not affordable to many people making around $10 an hour and it does not get the extra $1 billion incentive that expanding BadgerCare would generate from the federal government.)

“Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee voted to remove hundreds of divisive policy items from your budget proposal, including your request to expand the Medicaid program and increase the number of Wisconsinites on government assistance by over 90,000 people. Wisconsin provides quality, affordable coverage for all those who need it and expanding the program would simply lead to more people on a taxpayer funded government program and more expensive private plans for others,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Speaker Robin Vos and Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Sen. Howards Marklein and Rep. Mark Born.

“Let’s start with the facts. As you know, Medicaid is a $10.6 billion state-run program which is jointly funded by the federal government and the State of Wisconsin. It has more than 1.1 million enrollees, providing government-run health care to roughly one in five people in the state.” Read the rest of their letter here.

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.

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