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Lawmakers Still Deadlocked Over Medicaid In Virginia

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The war of words is heating up between Democrats and Republicans as the July first deadline approaches to come to some kind of agreement on the budget, currently at an impasse over whether or not Virginia should accept federal money to expand Medicaid to 400,000 people living with a low income or disabilities.

Democrats are now openly talking about the prospect of shutting down the government.

State Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, says Democrats advocating for Medicaid expansion are willing to push past the July 1 deadline if that's what it takes to win health care insurance for 400,000 low-income or disabled Virginians. He says Republicans should act on the budget already adopted by the Senate.

"If the Republicans aren't prepared to negotiate or act or move forward, then if we have to go past June 30 to make that happen then we just have to do that," McEachin says.

McEachin says the Republicans are engaging in brinksmanship by failing to act on the budget approved by Senate Democrats. But House Republicans say the Democrats are the ones engaging in brinksmanship.

"The prospect of going past June 30 is wholly unnecessary, and there's no reason to even be discussing it," says Speaker Bill Howell (R-Fredericksburg). "The governor is planning to take Virginia over the cliff. They are essentially planning to shut down government. I think this is reckless, irresponsible and would be devastating to the commonwealth."

Legislators still have two months to strike some kind of a deal, although neither side is showing any sign of backing down.

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