- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Senate locked down Tuesday in a partisan quarrel as GOP senators pushed through a resolution opposing Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Senators voted 22-8 for the resolution saying that the position of the Alabama Legislature is against Medicaid expansion and lawmakers have no intention of allocating funds to an expansion. The resolution caused the first large partisan fight so far this year, and one that Democrats vowed will spill over into the rest of the session.

Democrats have named Medicaid expansion a priority and voted against the bill. They said it is incorrect to present the legislature’s official position as opposing Medicaid expansion since some members support expansion.

“It’s a matter of life and death and we are choosing death,” Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said.

The Affordable Care Act encourages states to expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $16,245 for an individual. The federal government would pick up all of the costs initially, but the states would eventually have to pick up 10 percent of the tab.

The Republican sponsor of the resolution said the state is struggling to pay for Medicaid now.

“The costs of Medicaid are not sustainable,” said Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. Pittman said Medicaid has already “gobbled up the budget.”

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has been opposed to Medicaid expansion for much of his time in office. However, Bentley in recent months said he could support expanding eligibility if it was done through a block grant and if the state could put a work requirement on recipients.

Pittman said he thought it was important to state the Legislature’s intent. He said Bentley will face immense pressure to expand Medicaid.

The Senate immediately adjourned after the vote. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he wanted to give senators time to cool off from the disagreement.

However, Democrats said the said the hard feelings will linger.

“This will spill into the rest of the session,” said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.

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