A move to end a filibuster against LB 887 fell six votes short.
After the legislature clocked eight hours of debate on her bill, Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln made a cloture motion Wednesday morning, a motion to end debate and bring the bill to a vote. The legislature voted 27-21-1 on the motion. Though 25 votes are needed to pass legislation, it takes 33 votes to end a filibuster.
The Unicameral debated the bill for just over six and a half hours Tuesday, then picked it up and debated for an hour and a half this morning.
A similar measure failed to overcome a filibuster last legislative session.
Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton pleaded with colleagues filibustering Medicaid expansion to at least allow a vote on the bill.
“We owe citizens an up or down vote on LB 887,” Dubas stated. “We pass bills in this body every single day, but there is no question that this bill deals with the health and well-being of over 54,000 Nebraskans. We owe them a vote. You don’t have to like this bill, but we owe them a vote.”
Under LB 887, Medicaid would be extended to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level, estimated at slightly more than 50,000 Nebraska residents.
Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha begged opponents to re-consider, arguing that Medicaid expansion helps the working poor who can barely get by.
“I’m telling you, they can’t afford coverage. They have no access,” Lathrop said. “If we say no to 887, we are going to say in Nebraska health care is a privilege. It is a privilege and you better be able to afford it, because if you can’t, you’re done.”
Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha questioned a clause in LB 887 that would allow the state to pull out of the program if the federal government failed to live up to its promise of 90% funding. He asserted Nebraska judges have not allowed the state to withhold such services once granted.
“I don’t want to get into a situation again where we’re faced with the inability to pull back funding if the federal government reneges on their commitment and it comes at the expense of educating the young people of our state; the future of our state,” McCoy said.
Sen. John Murante of Gretna said the two sides in the debate have vastly different philosophies of government.
“Those of us who are in opposition are not in opposition, because we don’t care about those who are less fortunate or because we don’t understand, but that we simply are not convinced that this course of action will do the most amount of good for the most amount of people,” according to Murante.
Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, sponsor of the measure, insisted the bill is crucial, because a third of Nebraskans live below 200% of the federal poverty level and have to spend much more of their incomes on health care.
“LB 887 comes down to: are we going to be there for all Nebraskans or just for some?” Campbell asked her colleagues.
Medicaid expansion is an option under the Affordable Care Act, the federal health insurance law. Some opposition grew out of dissatisfaction with the law.
Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue said Medicaid expansion spends money the federal government doesn’t have, making note that he is a military intelligence officer by trade.
“I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody told me, ‘Military intelligence, ha ha, what an oxymoron,’ Well, I’m please to say that I finally got some relief from that, because the Affordable Care Act is the new oxymoron, because it is the Unaffordable Care Act. We cannot afford it.”