I spoke with Mark Tenia again for tonight's 5 & 6 o'clock broadcasts on WRIC-8, this time about the conference call the VA Republicans held today. They've contracted top Republican lawyer Paul Clement to review the state constitution and explain why the Governor cannot expand Medicaid without their approval.
The gist here: Clement's report is NOT an independent political or legal analysis and, to their credit, the GOP is not pitching it as one. Instead Clement laid out the GOP's own partisan legal argument for why the Governor's actions would be unconstitutional. Essentially they are making their case in the court of public opinion, before they have to make the case in an actual court.
It doesn't look good for Governor McAuliffe, as I think Clement is probably right. The constitution seems pretty clear on this: no spending of money, even federal money, without legislative approval. Plus if McAuliffe pushes forward on the issue and tries to bypass the legislature -- even more, if he succeeds in doing so -- it's going to be a rough rest of term for him. It may already be one, considering the tone of this battle and the rising tensions between the two branches. (Witness the latest kerfluffle about Assembly staffers "trespassing" in the Governor's offices to drop off a budget.)
It's way early, but my best bet: McAuliffe finds a way to "authorize" expansion, and then blames the Republicans for not giving him the money to actually implement it. Not exactly a win for him, and certainly a loss for the VA economy, if you believe what the hospitals have to say about it. Not to mention the nearly 400k uninsured who remain so. I'm not sure if "Virginia is broken," as Dahlia Lithwick wrote in April, but it sure seems headed that way.