Richmond, Va. (CBS DC) — Virginia Republicans are being accused of bribing off a Democratic state senator by offering him and his daughter prestigious jobs in exchange for his resignation – giving the GOP control of the chamber and the ability to strike down Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act.
Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell, will announce his resignation on Monday, allowing his daughter, Martha Puckett Ketron, to be appointed to a full six-year judgeship in addition to Puckett’s own promotion to the powerful job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, The Washington Post reports.
The maneuvers have sparked outrage among Democrats, who are accusing the GOP of trying to buy the state senate with job offers in order to defeat Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plan to expand Medicaid health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.
Delegate Scott A. Surovell, D-Fairfax, said the GOP has resorted to job offer bribery after failing to win a policy argument on Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
“It’s astounding to me. The House Republican caucus will do anything and everything to prevent low-income Virginians from getting health care. . . . They figure the only way they could win was to give a job to a state senator,” Surovell told The Post. “At least they can’t offer Terry McAuliffe a job. I hope Terry continues to stand up to these bullies.”
McAuliffe said Puckett’s anticipated resignation adds “uncertainty” to his Medicaid expansion – a major campaign promise the Democrat ran for his 2013 election. McAuliffe has responded to repeated Republican attempts to stonewall the health care expansion by exploring options that don’t require state legislature approval.
“I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia,” McAuliffe told The Post. “This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans – who will now enjoy a 20-19 majority in the Senate — praised Puckett’s plans.
“Although Senator Puckett has decided to end his tenure in the Senate of Virginia, his legacy there will endure,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., told The Post. “And, his commitment and service to the people of Southwest, who honored him with their votes in five successive elections, will continue.”
Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, confirmed in a telephone interview to The Post that Puckett would resign on Monday. And Delegate Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, chairman of the tobacco commission, also confirmed that its executive committee is expected to meet and consider appointing Puckett to the prestigious position, possibly with the week.
Meanwhile, Puckett’s move will allow his daughter – who is already serving on a southwest Virginia bench – to be appointed to a full six-year term that was declined because of a Senate policy against the appointment of legislative relatives to judicial benches.
“It should pave the way for his daughter,” Kilgore said of Puckett’s resignation. “She’s a good judge … I would say that he wanted to make sure his daughter kept her judgeship. A father’s going do that.”
— Benjamin Fearnow