Roundup provides a review of the week’s top government stories from Chattanooga, Nashville and Washington, D.C.
House doesn’t love budget deal, but most approve
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a narrow budget deal Thursday that funds the federal government until September 2015 but provides few concessions to either political party. Some Democrats were disappointed the bill doesn’t renew unemployment benefits, and conservative lawmakers and groups argued it doesn’t do enough to curb government spending.
"Tonight, the House took a modest step toward reforming spending and setting our government on a more stable path," Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said in a prepared statement. "While this bill is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction."
Only two Republican congressmen from Tennessee, Scott DesJarlais and John Duncan, voted against the legislation. Three Republicans from Georgia—Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston—also voted no.
The 332-94 House vote puts pressure on the Senate, where the bill goes next. Some Republican senators who face tea party challengers in 2014 are likely to vote against. Sen. Lamar Alexander has not announced how he plans to vote.
Haslam hedges on TennCare expansion
Sixty-three percent of Tennesseans support expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, according to a new Vanderbilt poll. But Gov. Bill Haslam is delaying a final decision in hopes that the Department of Health and Human Services will green-light an alternate proposal he announced in March.
"We do not see a path forward in the current environment to extend coverage" unless implementation issues with the Affordable Care Act are resolved and his plan gets approval, Haslam wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this week.
He described his decision last month as "trying to thread a needle from 80 yards." Many Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly oppose expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. But increasingly, hospitals and business groups are urging the governor to expand the state’s health program for the poor.
State Democrats jumped into the fray Tuesday.
"The governor’s letter is simply the latest in a series of farces," state House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said in a prepared statement. "Expanding Medicaid in Tennessee is not an impossible task, but Gov. Haslam is doing everything he can to make it one."
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