LePage says federal government shutdown is reason not to expand Medicaid

House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, left, and Gov. Paul LePage, right. BDN photos by Troy Bennett.

It’s unclear just how long the federal government shutdown will continue, but while it does, it will provide rhetorical fodder for elected officials and pundits of all political stripes.

The shutdown is like a giant beltway Rorschach test; Politicians project whatever they want onto it. For example:

Gov. Paul LePage and House Speaker Mark Eves both used their most recent weekly addresses to tackle and criticize Congress’ failure to prevent the shutdown and lament the ensuing loss of jobs and federal funding Maine. But — obviously — the Republican governor and Democratic speaker brought their criticism to vastly different conclusions. 

For LePage, the shutdown is an argument against the expansion of Medicaid, one of last session’s biggest political battles, which is shaping up to return to the fore when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

It is proof positive, LePage said, that the state cannot trust the promise of federal funding (expansion of Medicaid to more than 70,000 in Maine would be 100 percent funded by the federal government, which would slowly winnow down its funding to 90 percent thereafter). Said LePage:

“The federal government laid off our friends and neighbors in the National Guard; it is cutting food stamps for our neediest residents; and it has revoked funding for the mentally disabled. It won’t even pay for veterans benefits.But still, liberals in Maine believe the federal government will pay for a massive expansion of welfare. They don’t live in reality.”

In the Democrats’ weekly address, given by Eves on Friday, the speaker defended the Affordable Care Act — of which Medicaid expansion was meant to be a part — against the “small faction of Tea Party Republicans in Congress” he said were responsible for shutting down the government. Eves said the shutdown took place simply because those Republicans opposed the health care law, which he said “will help millions more Americans be able to see a doctor when they are sick.”

Eves also lumped LePage in with those same Tea Party Republicans:

“Shutdown politics are no way to run a government. Here in Maine we avoided a government shutdown after Tea Party Governor Paul LePage vetoed the state budget. We didn’t agree to his my-way-or-the-highway approach that would have hurt our economy and our middle class, so he tried to drown it with drama.”

 You can hear the Democrat’s full weekly address here. LePage’s is not yet online, but when it is, it will be here.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.