5 Feb 2013

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who campaigned as a budget hawk and rode the Tea Party wave to victory in 2010, has agreed to accept Obamacare funding to expand his state’s Medicaid program, breaking ranks with fellow Republican governors and the Tea Party that elected him.

Kasich’s decision, announced yesterday, could encourage other Republican governors to do the same, joining the five who have done so already.

Originally, the Obamacare law forced states to expand their Medicaid programs. Many cash-strapped states objected, and joined the Obamacare lawsuit that the Supreme Court decided last year. One of the few bright spots for conservatives in an otherwise devastating (and, many argued, poorly reasoned) decision was that the Court affirmed the 10th Amendment right of states to opt out of the Medicaid portion of Obamacare.

But a few Republican governors--even those who said they had opposed Obamacare--decided that the federal government’s offer under the law to pay 100% of the initial cost of expansion and 90% thereafter was simply too good to refuse. The prospect of being able to tell voters that he had vastly expanded Medicaid access--and the fear of facing Democrat attacks for not doing so--seems to have enticed Kasich to accept the deal.

Philip Kelin of the Washington Examiner notes that Kasich was likely feeling weakened after losing a referendum on public sector union reforms in 2011.

Ironically, voters who rejected those reforms also passed a constitutional amendment on the same ballot that prevents the state from participating in Obamacare’s insurance mandates. Kasich has now retreated from a stance against Obamacare that once enjoyed wide public support.

Kasich’s decision could now also place him in opposition to congressional Republicans as they confront President Barack Obama and the Democrats over federal government spending. The White House has pledged that it will resist any proposal that makes cuts to Medicaid spending--including the spending on which Kasich and a handful of other Republican governors now depend to pay for expanding an already-bloated program.

In addition, Kasich has given credibility to the arbitrary way in which the executive has implemented Obamcare, granting waivers to favored unions and corporate clients. The Huffington Post’s Jeffery Young notes that the terms of the deal Kasich is negotiating with the White House have yet to be finalized, but that it will likely include a relaxation of the requirement announced in December that states must expand Medicaid eligibility to those earning up to 133% of the poverty level to receive the full amount of federal aid.

Perhaps the best symbol of Kasich’s new approach to federal government spending and arbitrary rule-making was his effusive praise for White House adviser--and consummate left-wing Chicago insider--Valerie Jarrett: “I want to thank Valerie Jarrett today for being willing to work with us.” Next, Kasich will try to bring Republican state legislators aboard.

Klein calls Kasich’s about-face “political cowardice.” But the left is celebrating. Democrat strategist Ed Kilgore crowed that Kasich’s move “will make the arguments of nay-sayers harder,” adding that he had given up his “political stock in trade” of fiscal conservatism,

What supporters of Obamacare--and Gov. Kasich--still fail to reckon with is the strain Obamacare puts on the federal budget. That is, once again, someone else’s problem.