Vitter, who announced he will run for governor in Louisiana earlier this year, made the remarks during an event at the Press Club of Baton Rouge in which he discussed his candidacy for governor. The sitting senator said he would not rule out accepting the increased federal funding in exchange for expanding the state’s Medicaid program to cover more low-income Americans if the current program can be improved, and if it wouldn’t draw too much from other spending areas like higher education, according to the AP.
Vitter’s apparent willingness to consider expansion is in stark contrast to the state’s current governor, Bobby Jindal, a Republican who will be forced to leave office in 2015 thanks to term limits. Jindal has been a fierce opponent of Medicaid expansion, a move which denies coverage to a little more than 240,000 residents or about 34% of the state’s uninsured non-elderly adults according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
His opposition to the law saw increased attention after Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state against MoveOn.org over a billboard the progressive group paid for that blasted Jindal for denying health care to 242,000 Louisianians, trying to have the billboard taken down because the language too closely language used in a tourism campaign.
“MoveOn.org has every right to attack Gov. Jindal, the state’s refusal to accept Medicaid or, for that matter, me personally. But they do not have the right to use our protected service mark, which is used solely for the purpose of promoting and marketing Louisiana. We own the mark and its use is under the direction of my office, not the Office of the Governor,” Dardenne said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, according to the Times Picayune. A federal judge sided with MoveOn.org in that case in April.
Vitter has not been Washington’s loudest opponent when it comes to overall the health reform law, but he has been a big critic of a loophole in the law that allows lawmakers in Washington and some staffers to get extra help when purchasing health insurance through exchanges.
Vitter also said he would not treat the governor’s office as a stepping stone to a bigger job someday.
“I will lead. I’m not running for governor as a stepping stone … I’m not even running to gain a cameo appearance on ‘Duck Dynasty,’” the senator said according to the Advocate, referring to Jindal’s likely presidential aspirations and and recent appearance on the A&E hit reality show’s premiere.