TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says she will not allow Medicaid expansion to pass through the Senate until her ‘Value Them Both’ bill has been passed.
The bill would change the Kansas constitution and give the legislature the power to regulate abortion in the state. This comes after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled it was a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The possible amendment passed through the Senate but failed in the House, needing four votes. As a result, Wagle has stopped all forward movement on Medicaid expansion.
“She took the approach that the only tool in her toolbox is a hammer, so instead of trying to figure out how to get both pieces of legislation passed, she took the approach that she would try and punish everybody,” said Senator Jim Denning, Senate Majority Leader, (R) Overland Park.
Senator Denning co-wrote the Medicaid expansion bill along with Governor Laura Kelly. The bill already had bipartisan support and was expected to quickly pass through the Senate. Denning said he was upset at Wagle’s decision, but he is now working to get both the abortion amendment and Medicaid expansion passed.
“It looks pretty bleak right now,” said Denning. “But calmer heads will prevail and we’ve already started to have conversations with all of the stakeholders about moving both pieces forward.
Senator Wagle was away from the Statehouse on Monday on personal business, according to her Communications Director. Some alleged she was in Washington D.C. fundraising for the U.S. Senate race campaign. While away, Senator Wagle sent a letter to Senators asking for their support. In the letter, she says she does not want taxpayers to pay for Medicaid abortions.
Senate Democrats are not happy with Wagle’s approach.
“She’s a one-person wrecking crew is what she is,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. “She’s out of control in terms of her leadership style. She should let Medicaid expansion rise or fall on its own merits.”
Both Senators Denning and Hensley say they believe Wagle is doing this to gain conservative voters’ support in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. They both also believe that Medicaid expansion will pass this year, though Denning hopes it’s with the abortion amendment also passing while Hensley is looking to get expansion done on its own.
“We have to have at least 24 votes with a group of Senators, both Republicans and Democrats, who are willing to stand-up and support a motion to bring the Medicaid expansion bill out of committee,” explained Senator Hensley.