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offHow is Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Republican majority in Arkansas like a reality show? They both feature folks who’ll do anything to anybody to win.

The more unethical and ugly the tactics and behaviors, the more the so-called winners are rewarded to move along to the big finale. Players take one adamant position and then another, confusing observers as well as the opposition. Unlikely alliances come up and are blown away just as quickly, serving the immediate purpose as long as they lead to a win.

With tongue held firmly in-cheek, we applaud the ability of our Republican lawmakers this week to quickly accomplish bipartisan legislation that suits their purposes, like advancing Governor Hutchinson’s unethical ploy to continue Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

Senate, House Vote “Yes” on SB121

The Arkansas Senate voted Wednesday 27-2 to approve SB121 with the Governor’s faux amendment ending the Medicaid expansion program, being fully aware that Hutchinson planned from the beginning to veto the amendment and so leave Medicaid expansion intact. Likewise, the Arkansas House yesterday passed the bill 77-13, sending it to the Governor’s desk. (GOP Representative Karilyn Brown was incorrectly recorded as present and voted “yes.”)

Two hours later the sketchy dodge was done as Hutchinson, using his line-item veto authority, cut the faux amendment as promised, leaving Medicaid expansion intact.

It took Governor Hutchinson only a few days of the fiscal session to pull off his until-then-secret plan to circumvent the state Constitution’s 75% requirement for appropriations approval, in effect running the “Arkansas 10” Obamacare opponents off his island. His successful scheme set a very dangerous precedent that both Democrats and Republicans will feel compelled to employ in future funding fights.

He started with a lockout of any compromise discussions, letting it be known that his Medicaid expansion scheme would be the only plan to pass the Legislature, or else. Then, contrary to previous assurances, the Governor also refused to allow Medicaid expansion to be separated from the overall DHS funding bill. When Democrat lawmakers balked at his faux amendment hoax, the Governor championed his veto bait strategy, promising his veto to ally with them to get what they want and continue Medicaid expansion.

On the island sometimes you need to enlist others to operate as wingmen in your scheme to win. Republican lawmakers played their part by quickly dispensing with their piece of Governor Hutchinson’s unethical ploy when the Senate and House, in alliance with Democrats, approved SB121, the bill they all knew was a sham.

Opposition Votes “Present,” Won’t Participate in Sham;
“Arkansas 10” Splits on Final Vote

Honesty and truth did not win this week in the Arkansas Legislature, just like in a reality show, prompting GOP lawmakers who opposed the winning racket (along with independent Representative Nate Bell) to protest the Governor’s contrivance by voting “present.”

And, as in all good reality shows, at the final moment the original alliance — the Senate’s adamant “Arkansas 10” — went their separate ways on the last vote. While Senators Bart Hester and Blake Johnson voted for Wednesday’s bill and Senator Missy Irvin was recorded as non-voting, five Senators (Alan Clark, Linda Collins-Smith, Scott Flippo, Terry Rice, and Gary Stubblefield) voted “present.”

Also voting “present” in the House were Representatives Mary Bentley, Bruce Cozart, Jim Dotson, Charlotte Douglas, Grant Hodges, Lane Jean, David Meeks, Stephen Meeks, and Richard Womack.

How is Asa’s Republican majority like a reality show? Anything to win, including voting for a bill they know will have the opposite effect than what’s written. And, just like a reality show, the GOP majority’s ratings — and re-election chances — go down if observers don’t much like what they’re seeing.