Wisconsin Republicans say they will immediately gavel out special session on expanding BadgerCare

MADISON, Wis. — Republican leadership in Wisconsin’s state legislature say they will immediately gavel out of a special session ordered by Gov. Tony Evers to address Medicaid expansion next week.

The governor signed an executive order calling for the special session next Tuesday to take up a bill that would use nearly a billion dollars in federal stimulus money tied to expanding Medicaid on dozens of projects across the state.

“We’re not only going to expand access to healthcare for tens of thousands of people across our state, we’re going to use that $1 billion we’d save and put it toward making sure our economy can bounce back and recover from this pandemic,” Gov. Evers said earlier Wednesday.

Wisconsin is one of 12 states that have not taken advantage of the Medicaid expansion, while the majority of states — including many with Republican leadership — have done so.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Republican leadership in the Wisconsin legislature made it clear they would not only once again reject Medicaid expansion, but they would also immediately gavel out the special session, as they have in several other special sessions called by Evers during his tenure as governor — including sessions called to address gun control, police reform and unemployment.

Calling Evers’ plan a “political maneuver,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and Senate President Chris Kapenga said they would not debate it.

“We intend to gavel out this unserious stunt,” Steineke and Kapenga said.

“Everyone who wants insurance in our state has access and options,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said in the joint statement. “We will not shift tens of thousands of people off their private insurance to a government-run system.”

The governor previously included Medicaid expansion as part of his state budget proposal, but that was also rejected by Republicans on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

“The Governor says this special session is about BadgerCare, but this bill is nothing more than a mini budget advanced by the Governor because he didn’t get his way through the normal budget process,” Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Mark Born, who are co-chairs on the Joint Finance Committe, said.

The governor’s office has said 70% of people in Wisconsin support expanding BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid program, and has criticized the Republican leadership for leaving “billions of federal dollars on the table.”

“If the Republicans decide not to do this, they’ll be turning away projects in their own districts,” Evers warned Wednesday morning. “But at the end of the day, this has to be about the healthcare of Wisconsinites.”