But amid Washington’s ultrapartisan atmosphere, the governors presented a unified front, opting not to take sides.
“Our focus today was not to endorse a specific plan, nor to dismiss a specific plan, but rather to point out ... as governors, we think it’s important that we have a seat at the table,” said Gov. Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin. Governor Walker, a rising GOP star who survived a recall election last year over his moves against public-sector unions, declined to discuss any presidential ambitions for 2016.
Another Republican governor, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, said the group asked for “flexibility” in how federal money and spending cuts are passed down to the states, so that political leaders can “do what’s in the best interest of our states.”
Markell of Delaware expressed particular concern about future funding for Medicaid, a federal-state health-insurance program that services low-income and disabled people. Mr. Obama’s health-reform law, which goes into effect in 2014, includes the option for states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, with a large federal subsidy to support it. Medicaid is exempt from the sequester, but theoretically it could face cuts in any “grand bargain” that Obama and the Republicans eventually reach on long-term deficit reduction.
Delaware opted to expand Medicaid, as have many other states, mainly those with Democratic governors. “In our case, we made that decision because of the underlying economics, the fact that there is a higher reimbursement for the population that we’re already serving,” Markel said, according to the Wilmington News Journal. “Clearly if that were changed, we would have to revisit that decision.”
Walker of Wisconsin said he wasn’t worried for now about the fiscal cliff deadline, aware that negotiations often go right up to the end.