Ed Gillespie, Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, walked back comments opposing the congressional Republican health care bill mere minutes after he made them Tuesday night.
In a televised debate with his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Gillespie said he did not support the Graham-Cassidy bill, which is the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Virginia cannot be punished in any legislation for not being an expansion state and for being fiscally prudent with our Medicaid dollars,” Gillespie said. “And in my view, Graham-Cassidy falls short of that.”
Northam pressed him on the matter, asking him to align himself with the many Republican governors who have publicly objected to the legislation.
“I would ask you tonight to join the two Republican governors that have said that this would be a bad idea. I think it would be a great idea ―” Northam said.
“I just said we can’t punish Virginia,” Gillespie shot back, implying his remarks had been tantamount to an agreement with those GOP governors.
But shortly after the debate, Gillespie appeared to change his tune, claiming he did not have a position on Graham-Cassidy per se, but that he merely opposed any provision that penalized Virginia financially for not using ACA funds to expand Medicaid.
“There is a process under way right now. And I want to make sure Virginia is protected from that kind of punishment but I’m not endorsing or opposing any specific legislation,” Gillespie told a reporter after the debate.
The Gillespie campaign did not respond to multiple requests to clarify his position.
The Graham-Cassidy bill, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), is a last-gasp attempt by Senate Republicans to cobble together legislation to repeal the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare.
The senators are casting the legislation as a compromise that is sufficiently moderate to secure 50 Republican votes in the Senate.
But the bill would gut federal funding of the Obamacare exchanges and Medicaid expansion, as well as curtail Medicaid spending altogether by instituting a per-person cap that would fail to keep pace with currently projected health care cost growth. It also would penalize more liberal states by redistributing federal funding from states that currently spend more on Medicaid due to the ACA expansion and other policies to overwhelmingly Republican states that spend less. And the bill would allow…