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Crisafulli Turns Medicaid Expansion into 'Obamacare Expansion'

April 28, 2015 - 6:00pm

The gloves came off in the Florida Legislature on Wednesday as House Speaker Steve Crisafulli branded Senate President Andy Gardiner with the Republican equivalent of the mark of Cain: linking him to President Barack Obama and his federal health-care law.

Not willing to accept Medicaid expansion, the House adjourned Tuesday without passing a budget. Gardiner rallied the Senate on Wednesday afternoon in a speech in which he said the House had violated the state Constitution by adjourning early.

Article III, section 3 of the Florida Constitution, plainly states: Neither house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution.' Further support for this reading is found in the following subsection of Article III, section 3, granting the governor the authority to adjourn a session, including the adjournment sine die, Gardiner wrote to Crisafulli. This framework, modeled after the United States Constitution, sets up a constitutional framework encouraging cooperation between our chambers and designating the governor to resolve disputes when our chambers cannot agree on a time to adjourn.

This constitutional parliamentary requirement could not be clearer and trumps our own respective chambers parliamentary rules, Gardiner added. The course of action you have taken is not only unconstitutional; it is unprecedented under our present state Constitution. In fact, the last time there was a disagreement between the chambers on when to adjourn, it was resolved by Gov. LeRoy Collins in 1956.

Crisfaulli quickly wrote back, dismissing Gardiners call for the House to reconvene.

I understand that you are angry that the House concluded our business, Crisafulli wrote. You know that the things that have been said about our work together are untrue. I know you know that in your heart.

Crisafulli then played the Obama card against the Senate president, connecting Medicaid expansion to the Democrat in the White House.

I remain willing to be your partner, Crisafulli wrote. I told you that the House could not pass Obamacare expansion. It's not something that I can force them to pass. Its not about a single member. This is a matter of the House exercising its constitutional duty to represent those who have elected us.

There are plenty of reasons for Crisafulli to tie Obama around Gardiners neck. Quinnipiac University took a poll last month which found Obama upside down in the Sunshine State despite carrying it twice. Only 41 percent of Florida voters approved of Obama while 55 percent disapproved of him. Obama obviously does far worse with Florida Republicans. Only 5 percent see Obama as favorable while an overwhelming 93 percent of Republicans in the Sunshine State see him as unfavorable. The poll of 1,087 Florida Republicans was taken from March 17-28 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

There can be dire consequences for Florida Republicans marked with the Obama brand. Former Gov. Charlie Crist is easily the best example. In 2009, Crist, then governor and starting to emerge as a major player for the national GOP, started campaigning for the U.S. Senate as an overwhelming favorite. But Marco Rubio, relatively unknown to most voters despite having been speaker of the Florida House, went all out against Crist. Rubio and his team showcased Crists support for Obamas stimulus and used it to propel himself over the then-governor. Despite having represented the Republicans four times as a candidate for statewide office, Crist left the GOP at the end of April 2010 to continue his Senate bid with no party affiliation. Rubio blew him out that November. Joining the Democrats after the 2012 elections, Crist ran for governor but lost to Gov. Rick Scott.

While he certainly ran close against Scott, in retrospect Crists political decline began when Rubio painted him as an Obama supporter. Being pegged as a supporter of Obama hurts Republicans in the Sunshine State -- and its exactly what Crisafulli is willing to do to Gardiner and supporters of Medicaid expansion in the Senate.

Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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