Virginia Governor’s Veto in Limbo; Medicaid Expansion Future Uncertain

On Friday, June 20, 2014, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed eight provisions of the budget passed by the state legislature after several weeks in special session. As we reported on June 16, the Virginia Assembly’s budget specifically prohibited expansion of Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). McAuliffe vetoed that restriction. On Monday, June 23, as the House considered the vetoes, Speaker William Howell (R- 28th) refused to allow a vote on this veto; he ruled that McAuliffe’s veto of the restriction on his authority was unconstitutional because it was not tied to any specific funds.

The Vetoes

When he announced his vetoes on Friday, McAuliffe said that the provision “restricted spending that didn’t exist” and was unnecessary. He remained determined to expand Medicaid in whatever way he could legally do so, and directed William Hazel, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, to develop a plan and deliver it to him by September 1, 2014.

The second Medicaid-related veto eliminated the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC), which was required to approve any proposed reforms. McAuliffe said that the legislature had made the MIRC “irrelevant” by stripping it of all funding and that it served as an obstacle to reform rather than a forum to consider how to meet people’s needs. This veto was sustained.

The Speaker’s Action

Howell’s move prevented the House from voting on whether to override the veto at all. A two-thirds majority would have been necessary to override, and the House was closely divided. McAuliffe called Howell’s move a “procedural gimmick” and an exercise of power reserved to the judiciary. Howell and other Republicans said the veto threatened the separation of powers.

Next Steps

McAuliffe has not said whether he would bring the matter to court. He and his staff are evaluating the House’s failure to override the veto.