Kelly Ayotte Faces Third Party Challenge Over Medicaid Expansion

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) speaks at the No Labels Problem Solver convention October 12, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Eight presidential candidates addressed the bipartisan event which included many undecided New Hampshire voters. (Photo by
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

New Hampshire GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte is facing a tough reelection fight next year, as Republicans battle to retain control of the U.S. Senate. Her path to reelection could become impossible, however, if the state’s Republican legislature goes through with a plan to reauthorize ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion in the state.

Aaron Day, chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus in New Hampshire, has vowed to launch a third-party bid for the Senate against Ayotte should the legislature expand Medicaid in the state. According to Day, Ayotte injected herself into the state legislature’s leadership debate, ensuring the Republicans, who control the legislature, elected a House Speaker who would expand Medicaid in the state.

“Republicans were set to return a conservative, who opposed Medicaid expansion, to the Speaker’s chair until Ayotte interfered,” Day said. “She and the GOP establishment think Medicaid expansion will help them politically. They should understand that such an action will doom them politically,” Day told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.

New Hampshire became the 26th state to expand its Medicaid program under ObamaCare in early 2014. At the time, Democrats controlled the Governor’s mansion and House of Representatives, while the Republicans controlled the state Senate. Under a compromise, the expansion was only authorized through 2016, while the federal government was still paying 100 percent of the costs of expansion.

After 2016, under current law, the federal government will only cover 90 percent of the costs of expansion. There is nothing to prevent the federal share being reduced further in the future, a key fact pointed to by fiscal hawks arguing against expansion.

In fact, in recent budget negotiations, the Obama Administration has already floated a proposal to lower this 90 percent funding commitment. It backed off this plan, but it shows how tenuous the federal commitment to assume the costs of Medicaid expansion really is. If the Obama Administration is prepared to jettison a key feature of its signature legislative achievement, its hard to believe future Administrations looking for budget savings won’t do the same.

The Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire was spearheaded by Republican state Senators Chuck Morse and Jeb Bradley. Bradley is a former Congressman. At the time, the New Hampshire GOP issued a press release praising the expansion of ObamaCare in the state.

Republicans and Democrats share the goal of expanding access to health care for New Hampshire’s low income families. However, Republicans understand that the best way to reach this objective is to offer access to high quality private insurance instead of pushing them into a broken, financially struggling entitlement program.

There are at least three things wrong with that statement, not the least of which the Republican plan to expand Medicaid perpetuates the “broken, financially struggling entitlement program.” Setting those particulars aside, the New Hampshire Republican party seems to have had second thoughts about its cheerleading of Medicaid expansion. That release is no longer available on the party’s website.

According to Day, Ayotte and the GOP establishment in New Hampshire think that continuing ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion will help them attract “moderate” voters next November. This old Republican playbook, offering the same things as Democrats only at a reduced “cost,” goes a long way to explain the success of outsider candidates in the Republican nomination battle.

Day writes at the Republican Liberty Caucus website:

The Establishment values Party over Principle. The Establishment view holds that the most important thing is to get Republicans elected regardless of what it means to be a Republican. The phrase “go along to get along” summarizes this approach.

The Non-Establishment view holds that principles matter. In short, to quote Alexander Hamilton, “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.”

Day’s challenge, though, represents something of on evolution of the conservative strategy against establishment Republicans. Rather than challenge Ayotte in a Republican primary, Day is threatening a third-party Independent run. Given Day’s activism and stature among conservatives and libertarians in the state, such a run would probably doom Ayotte’s reelection, assuring Democrats pick up the seat.

Day’s threat isn’t tied to Ayotte per se, but rather to the larger actions of the Republican party. If the Republicans in New Hampshire force through an expansion of Medicaid, against its own party platform and the public positions of most county Republican organizations, then it raises the question of what the real difference is between the parties.

If the Republicans in New Hampshire expand Medicaid, he will launch a third party campaign. If the party rejects expansion, he will continue fighting in the trenches to elect conservative Republicans.

If the Republican party is willing to abandon the conservatives that make up the majority of the party to chase what it believes is the path to political success, then perhaps it is time for conservatives to abandon the Republican party.