Brewer, supporters rally for Medicaid expansion

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- They arrived in wheelchairs and on foot, waving Arizona and U.S. flags and chanting, "Bring it to the floor."

Hundreds of supporters of Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan rallied on the lawn of the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday in a public bid to persuade the GOP-led Legislature to move forward the proposal that has divided Republican lawmakers and brought the legislative session to a crawl in recent weeks.

The rally was Brewer's fourth and largest since announcing she wants to expand the state's health insurance for the poor by 300,000 more people. Her plan represents a stark about-face that has made her one of the state's leading proponents of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul more than three years after she joined other Republican governors to block it in a failed lawsuit.

"I don't think the opponents realize how hard we are going to fight," Brewer told the cheering crowd Wednesday. "This is a fight worth fighting for. Are we going to win? Darn right, we are going to win."

Roughly 60 protesters attended the rally. They waved signs that read "We thought you were a Republican?" and "Obama-Brewer for Death Panels." As Brewer joined the crowd on the lawn, the protesters yelled "Stop abortion" and chanted "Traitor."

"It's tyranny what she is doing," said Vera Anderson, a tea party supporter who voted for Brewer. "She was on both sides of the fence."

Brewer told reporters after the rally that she doesn't know why some Republicans were still fighting the proposed expansion.

"They probably don't understand the issue," she said. "Some people are just `no' on anything. But they do the math, anybody can do the math. It's the right thing for Arizona...It's the right thing to do financially and morally."

A proposed budget moving through the Senate doesn't include the expansion, but it will likely be added in an amendment this week. House Speaker Andy Tobin, however, remains a significant hurdle. He has said the House will not expand Medicaid and wants to send the debate to voters in a special election.

Republican Rep. Carl Seel of Phoenix was one of the only lawmakers to attend the rally. He has been a frequent critic of the expansion plan but said he is open to the Senate's proposed compromise, which would maintain coverage for more than 60,000 childless adults now covered by Arizona's Medicaid plan using the state's rainy-day fund. Seel said he doesn't support Tobin's ballot idea because health care companies that stand to benefit from the overhaul would flood the election process with confusing ads.

"Putting it on the ballot is a very dangerous proposal," he said.

Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, one of many lawmakers on both sides of the debate who have called for a floor vote on Medicaid, said Brewer is winning.

"If I were the governor, I would be very pleased because it appears we've met her more than half way," he said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.