PHOENIX -- Members of the Arizona House who support Gov. Jan Brewer's plan to expand Medicaid to 300,000 more people worked Tuesday to bring the proposal to a vote after six months of public debate.
Moderate Republicans were poised to join all 24 House Democrats in forcing the vote Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday. The moves come after a House committee dominated by conservative Republicans rejected the Senate-passed budget bill that contained the Medicaid provision on Monday.
Moderate Republicans who support Medicaid met with Speaker Andy Tobin Tuesday morning but left without comment. Tobin doesn't support Brewer's proposal.
Medicaid supporters have several ways to revive the bill.
They could add its language onto a health-related bill already set to be heard. They also could simply force a vote on the bill the Appropriations Committee rejected and bring it to a vote; that option is considered by some less likely because it involves suspending normal rules and going to a vote without debate.
"If it does pass today, I think there will be a lot of Arizonans waking up tomorrow reading the newspaper and be shocked that Obamacare is enshrined in the law of Arizona," said Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley. "I think we lose this vote but the battle for liberty and free markets and limited government rages on."
Brewer has been fighting to persuade the Legislature to pass her plan since she shocked many by announcing she was embracing a signature part of the Affordable Care act in January. She has gathered the backing of the business community, hospitals, health care workers and patients, and also held a series of rallies at the Capitol.
The plan would cover people making between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level and restore coverage to more than 100,000 childless adults who lost Medicaid coverage because of a state budget crunch. Hospitals have seen their uncompensated care skyrocket since the free care went into effect two years ago and pushed for the plan.
Brewer would use a new assessment on hospitals for the state's share of the costs. About 1.3 million Arizonans already are covered by the state's plan, called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
The Senate passed Medicaid last month after a handful of Republicans joined all Democrats to support it. That incensed conservatives, but a similar coalition has now coalesced in the House.
Just Monday, nine Republicans joined all Democrats to pass a bill that increases school districts' ability to issue bonds.
"What those nine Republicans did siding with the Democrats ... it seems apparent we might have nine turncoats on our hands," said Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix. "And with what they did yesterday, it may be an indication that they could do whatever they want on the floor."