Governors Steer Clear of Trump Talk As Healthcare Vote Looms
State leaders attending this week’s National Governors Association’s three-day summer meeting discussed healthcare, international trade, and most national news topics, but for the most part, they steered clear of the topic that has featured in most political discussions since the first of the year: President Donald Trump.
“When I deal with all these governors here, Democrat or Republican, I’m not sure his name has even come up,” NGA Chairman and Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe told Politico. “You would think it would be a big topic of discussion. It’s almost like he’s a non-factor. No one’s even talking about him.”
Friday Vice President Mike Pence gave the opening address, where he touted the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, but for many governors, the best way to deal with the Trump issue was to avoid it.
The White House is pushing GOP governors hard in public and in private to back the Senate bill, reports The Washington Post, but four governors insist the bill will impact their most vulnerable residents.
“I’ve still got to come back to my concerns with regard to the Medicaid population,” said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, while heading into a private session with Pence following the vice-president’s speech.
Senators from their states are watching how the governors react to changes to the Senate bill unveiled this past week while deciding how to vote in the neck-to-neck race to get the legislation to Trump’s desk.
Kasich was not at the meeting, but issued a statement saying the revised Senate plan is “still unacceptable” because of cuts to Medicaid and how the measure could impact the private ACA market.
The revised Senate GOP proposal still calls for cutting $772 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years by phasing out the expansion program and making deep cuts starting in 2025.
Many of the key voices either for or against the president, meanwhile, did not attend the conference. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, both close associates of the president, stayed away, but so did many of Trump’s key critics, including Kasich and Democrats Jerry Brown of California, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Washington’s Jay Inslee.
Part of the issue is that 27 of 38 states’ governors’ seats are held by Republicans and are up for grabs in 2018. In Democrat-heavy states such as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland, healthcare reform is looming, and could cause problems at the ballot.
In addition, GOP governors whose states have expanded Medicaid did not want to commit themselves to either side of the healthcare debate.
“There is a sense, with most of the things we deal with on a day-to-day basis, we can deal with them now in the states, without waiting around for an answer from Washington,” Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam commented.
Further, many governors aligned themselves with their counterparts from Canada and Mexico, and welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the keynote speaker Friday, marking the first time a foreign leader has addressed the conference.
Their stance on foreign trade also differed from the White House, where Trump wants to remove the United States from NAFTA and impose tariffs and import restrictions on trading parts.
Hutchinson said it’s “reassuring” to the nation’s allies that governors are going around the West Wing. The Republican leader noted that there are $2 billion in Chinese investments at stake in his state alone.