The Idaho GOP is in the midst of a civil war. Eighteen months after the Idaho Legislature created a state health exchange, the state Republican Party spun into disarray at its state convention as extremists and moderates fought for control of the party.
With that embarrassing episode in it’s past, the Idaho GOP had a mantra for the 2015 legislative session – unity. Leadership refused to even bring up Medicaid expansion, which would have provided 70,000 Idahoans with health insurance, because it threatened to become the next wedge issue.
On the House side, leadership created a “Bedke” rule which mandated near unanimous consent from the majority caucus before the chamber would take up a bill.
That resulted in a heavily watered-down transportation bill that threw pennies at a hundred-dollar problem.
But at least the GOP caucus wasn’t splitting itself apart on a wedge issue.
Then someting unexpected happened. Xenophobic paranoia mixed with anti-government passions to kill a bill that provided child-care enforcement to the state’s single-parent families, forcing the legislature to a special session.
The end result was another bloody, ugly, divisive battle over the hearts and minds of the Idaho GOP. On one side were Republicans who wanted to jeopardize $205 million a year in child support over moving-target arguments of “Sharia law,” “state sovereignty,” “coercion,” “taking a stand,” “guns to heads,” and “Trojan horses.” On the other were Republicans who wanted to restore the program that collects important funds for families.
The lesson appears to be that if the state GOP doesn’t break itself apart over wedge issues, it will invent a wedge issue to break itself upon.
So how about this: Let’s dispense with the attempted decorum. Instead of protecting the party from itself, which doesn’t seem to be working, why not just go for to the tough stuff.
Expand Medicaid. That’s right, expand Medicaid.
No more excuses about party unity. For crying out loud, the GOP can even keep from breaking itself over a routine bill. The party is in perpetual turmoil.
If we’re delaying important legislation until sects of the state GOP forge a peace treaty, we’ll be waiting a long time.
So dump it. Dump the Bedke rule. Quit worrying about unity. It’s never going to happen. Just get things done. Go for the tough stuff and make Idaho a better place to raise a family and start a business.
The GOP will be no worse off and the rest of us will be better off. That’s a pretty good deal.