The governor's office says a Democratic state senator is resigning, giving Republicans a one-seat advantage in the chamber in the middle of a bitter battle between the parties over Medicaid expansion (SenatorPuckett.com).
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
The Governor's Office says a Democratic state senator is resigning, giving Republicans a one-seat advantage in the chamber in the middle of a bitter battle between the parties over Medicaid expansion.
"It certainly caught me off guard," says Senator Donald McEachin. "I think it caught the entire caucus off guard.
Senator Phil Puckett's resignation comes as Democrats and Republicans were caught in a standstill over expanding Medicaid, the federal program providing health insurance for the poor.
But the resignation now gives Republicans control of the House and Senate.
Delegate John O'Bannon says there was some concern about a state shutdown, but now feels better about the situation.
"I think this really does give us an opportunity to move forward," he says.
But will that include expanding Medicaid, something House Republicans have fought against.
"I've always said that we were going to pass a budget on time and that there will be Medicaid expansion and I still hold on to that belief," O'Bannon says.
Senator Emmett Hanger, who proposed a compromise that included separating the budget from Medicaid, says he spoke with one top Democrat, Senator Dick Saslaw.
"In that conversation, he agreed basically to advancing the House budget, a clean budget without Medicaid in it," he says.
Gov. McAuliffe's office said in a statement Sunday that he was deeply disappointed by the resignation of a fellow Democrat and the uncertainty that creates around expanding Medicaid. McAuliffe favors widening the health care program for the poor.