Members of the Virginia House Republican leadership wrote U.S. Sen. Mark Warner on Tuesday, asking him to intervene with Gov. Terry McAuliffe and end the threat of a government shutdown over the Medicaid expansion issue.
Warner, D-Va., replied to House Speaker Bill Howell later in the day, urging Howell and other House Republican leaders to find a bipartisan solution to the Medicaid issue, which has held up passage of a Virginia budget, and has divided the Senate and House.
"I appreciate the spirit of your letter today, and would remind you that, here in Virginia, we repeatedly have demonstrated an ability to work together to find Virginia-centric solutions that are preferable to any top-down, federal approach,'' Warner said.
Warner cited two examples, including in 2004 when his administration and legislators worked out a budget and tax reform plan that allowed the state to retain its Triple A bond rating.
"I urge each of you to recommit your best efforts to work together to find a consensus solution that moves Virginia, and its families, forward,'' Warner said.
The letter sent earlier Tuesday and signed by Howell, House Majority Leader Kirk Cox and other Republican leaders, outlined the chronology of a budget impasse and the Medicaid expansion issue.
The letter states that the current situation in Virginia is similar to last fall's fight that led to a federal government shutdown. The issue there was an effort to defund and delay the Affordable Care Act.
"Unfortunately, Gov. McAuliffe and other Democrats are using the same tactic in the commonwealth, threatening a state government shutdown unless Obamacare is expanded in Virginia," the letter said.
Further, the letter states if "was wrong to use the threat of a federal government shutdown as a bargaining chip last fall, then it is certainly wrong to use the threat of a state government shutdown as a bargaining chip now."
The letter says that passage of the state budget is the most important obligation, and the lack of a state budget leaves uncertainty for local governments, school boards, colleges and universities and the business community.
Warner was asked to reach out to McAluliffe and "let him know you agree with us that threatening a government shutdown over a single issue is wrong."
McAuliffe's traveling press secretary, Rachel Thomas, said the issue of a budget is in the hands of the Virginia legislature.
"A primary responsibility of the General Assembly is to negotiate a budget which the governor can then sign,'' Thomas said. "Gov. McAuliffe has urged members of the Senate and House to compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap and to deliver it to his desk as quickly as possible so he can sign it into law, entable 400,000 Virginians access to healthcare, and create 30,000 jobs."