A post-policy test for Arkansas’ GOP

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
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For all the Republican policymakers who hate the Affordable Care Act with every fiber of their being, there are also plenty of GOP officials at the state level who have grudgingly discovered the value of “Obamacare.” This is evident, of course, in the growing number of Republican governors who’ve accepted reality and agreed to expand Medicaid in their respective states.

But Arkansas offers a different kind of example. The state has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the nation, and is also one of the poorest states by income levels, suggesting Arkansas is set to benefit in a big way from President Obama’s health-care reform law. What’s more, state GOP policymakers are well aware of this.

But there’s a problem.

Arkansas Republicans may be about to undercut their strongest argument for defeating Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

The GOP is promising to hang Pryor’s support for ObamaCare around his neck, using it as their main line of attack in the 2014 campaign. But the Republican-controlled state legislature may soon pass a state law that accepts a key portion of the national health law and use money from the program to help low-income Arkansas residents buy healthcare on state exchanges.

The plan isn’t a done deal yet – but Arkansas Republican leaders, who are supporting the compromise plan, are in a tough spot.

Here’s the problem: state GOP officials want to embrace the Affordable Care Act’s provisions in Arkansas because, well, it’d be good for Arkansas. State GOP officials also want to defeat Sen. Mark Pryor (D) next year, and see his “Obamacare” vote as a valuable talking point. They’re well aware of the conflict – the ACA can’t simultaneously be great when Republicans embrace its benefits and awful when Pryor votes for it. If GOP lawmakers reject the law, their constituents suffer; if they embrace the law, they give Pryor cover.

And so, we’re left with a test.

What will Arkansas Republicans value more: opportunities for struggling Arkansans to seek affordable medical care or talking points that might undermine a Democratic senator?

Common decency and a desire to do the right thing for the public suggests the choice shouldn’t be too difficult, but it’s apparently proving to be quite a conundrum for the new Republican majority in Arkansas.

Affordable Care Act and Arkansas

A post-policy test for Arkansas' GOP