Republicans in leadership across Kansas should calm down.

Their recent attempts to stoke fear among their base voters that Gov. Laura Kelly has a nefarious plan to expand Medicaid administratively are overheated, to say the least. They have taken questions about how Kelly’s departments are dealing with qualifications for public assistance programs — SNAP, specifically — and spun them into a tale about an evil Democrat and virtuous, powerless Republicans.

This is, to put it gently, a bunch of nonsense.

Here’s the deal: A vast majority of Kansans support expanding Medicaid. As shown in poll after poll, as shown by the election of pro-expansion legislators, as shown by the election of a pro-expansion insurance commissioner, our state wants this policy. It’s popular. It’s the right thing to do. It would allow some 150,000 Kansans to be covered.

Given this overwhelming public support — and given Republican leaders’ obstinacy to even holding a vote on expansion — Kelly’s administration would be remiss not to at least examine every possible option moving forward. That doesn’t mean she can expand the program by fiat. That doesn’t mean she even wants to.

Rather than fear mongering, these GOP leaders who are so concerned about executive overreach should be concentrating on fulfilling the will of Kansas voters. They should be talking about solutions — about the plans they have for a tailored Medicaid expansion bill — rather than throwing up further obstacles to Kansans’ ability to get health insurance.

Legislating is difficult. We understand that. The GOP Senate and House tried repeatedly to pass a tax bill, and Kelly successfully stopped it. Both chambers passed an abortion bill “reversal” bill, and Kelly’s veto was upheld again. Her education funding plan and budget were largely approved, despite scattered protests.

This is what divided power means. After eight years of unified Republican control, party leaders in the Legislature won’t be able to get what they want all of the time.

They seem to have decided that in the aftermath of the session, the best approach is to simply attack Kelly — not for something she’s actually done, but something they suspect she might do. They would be better advised to make a case for their own plans and ideas, painting a picture of where they want to take the state.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Medicaid expansion, GOP leaders’ actions have been unpopular. So for now, fear seems to be all that’s left.

 

Gatehouse Kansas