COMMENTARY | Jeb Bradley, the former U.S. Congressman who reportedly has ambitions for higher office, is helping to lead Republican opposition to Obamacare in the Granite State. The Boston Globe quoted Bradley as saying, “I’m very skeptical that we should expand Medicaid and I get more skeptical every day as other aspects of Obamacare can’t seem to get implemented.”
After being ousted from Washington, D.C. by social worker Carol Shea-Porter in 2006 and then losing a re-match with her in 2008, Bradley got himself elected to the New Hampshire State Senate in a special by-election in 2009, where he currently serves as Senate Majority Leader.
As Majority Leader, Bradley is the second most powerful Republican in the state, after Senate President .Peter Bragdon. He has staked out his position opposing the Medicaid expansion that is a hallmark of Obamacare, putting himself into conflict with Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, and the New Hampshire House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats.
Republicans enjoy a two seat advantage in the 24-seat State Senate.
Obamacare & Medicaid Expansion
Republican opposition in the GOP-controlled State Senate stymied the adoption of Medicaid expansion. In a compromise move, the Republicans agreed to the creation of a bipartisan Medicaid expansion committee to study the issue, such as the impact of future financial commitments that will accrue to the state once federal financing for the expansion is reduced.
The Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Obama’s Affordable Care Act struck down its Medicaid expansion mandate on the states, thus allowing states to opt out of that part of Obamacare. President Obama intended to extend health insurance by putting those working poor who lack it on the Medicaid rolls. The federal government would pick up the tab for 90% of the cost in the initial years of the program.
The Boston Globe estimates that Mediciad expansion would extend coverage to 58,000 Granite Staters who currently are uninsured. Mediciad already covers 137,000 in New Hampshire.
The program has been embraced by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a moderate Republican, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a conservative Republican. Brewer created a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to get Medicaid expansion, a hallmark of Obamacare, through the State Legislature.
Justifying her stance, Brewer told the New York Times, “It’s pro-life, it’s saving lives, it is creating jobs, it is saving hospitals.” She added, “I don’t know how you can get any more conservative than that,” she said.
Yet, the Times reports that her support for this aspect of Obamacare had caused a rift between her and the Arizona Republican Party’s right-wing.
Return to Washington?
Jeb Bradley reportedly has his eyes on either the governor’s office or a return to Washington, D.C. by winning U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s seat. He is constantly at the side of Kelly Ayotte, the Republican freshman senator, when she makes trips to New Hampshire, often acting as her front man at town hall meetings. He probably would like to join her in the U.S. Senate.
To win a ticket back to Washington or a bid to sit in the governor’s office in Concord, he will need to rally the conservative to reactionary members to the Granite State GOP to his banner if he hopes to succeed. The right in New Hampshire can be very fickle. Ayotte, a former Attorney General, barely beat long-time loser Ovide Lamontagne in the 2010 GOP primary for U.S. Senator. (Lamontagne lost decisively to Maggie Hassan in the 2012 gubernatorial race.)
Bradley twice lost New Hampshire’s First Congressional District when he last ran for state-wide office. The First is more conservative then the Second Congressional Distric, which currently is represented by liberal Democrat Annie Kuster.
In May, Bradley attended the New Hampshire Republican Party’s first “Liberty Dinner” that was headlined by libertarian favorite Rand Paul. The libertarian wing of the Granite State GOP, which includes the Tea Party, had held its own “Liberty Dinners” before the state party decided to co-opt the event. President Obama and Obamacare are anathema to the “Liberty Republicans”, which is just a re-branding of the Tea Party.
These reactionary elements of the New Hampshire Republican Party spearheaded the GOP’s tremendous win in 2010, when the Republicans swept all state-wide offices except for governor. They ousted the Democrats from control of both the House and Senate, winning veto-proof majorities in both. The GOP won back both Congressional seats and retained the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican.
Two years later, those same Tea Partiers were wiped out, and the Democrats took back the House and nearly won back the Senate.
Rather tacking toward the center, Jeb Bradley has apparently decided to steer a course tack to the right. While it may bolster his standing in the New Hampshire Republican Party, where Tea Partiers and libertarians are still a power, it is unlikely to win him broad appeal come November 2014. And that miscalculation may bring about the retirement of Bradley from politics, when — after giving up his State Senate Seat — he loses in his state-wide bid for higher office.