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Sen. John Cornyn is urging other senators to vote against President Biden’s pick to head the agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid.
The Texas Republican opposes her not because of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure’s qualifications, but because the Biden administration rescinded a 10-year extension of a Medicaid waiver that gave the state more than $11 billion a year in funding through Sept. 30, 2030.
“She doesn’t have any authority to force the Biden administration to undo its terrible and reckless mistake -- at least not yet,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “But until Texas can receive a waiver and assurance that this will be rectified and the rug will not be pulled out from under other poorest patients, I cannot support this nomination.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Gov. Greg Abbott have also been vocal against the discontinuation of Texas’ Medicaid 1115 Waiver, which was approved by the Trump administration Jan. 15 and helps reimburse hospitals for care of the uninsured.
“I think the Biden administration was punitive [and] targeted the state of Texas,” Cruz said Thursday. “I think it was petty politics that drove the decision. I think it was wrong and I have been leaning in hard against that decision.”
When asked if aside from the waiver he thought Brooks-LaSure was a good candidate for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator, Cruz signaled he doesn’t believe so.
“Opening action by the Biden administration is a very bad sign of things to come,” Cruz said Thursday in response.
The waiver was canceled because Texas didn’t need the funding “to address a public health emergency or other sudden emergency threat to human lives,” according to the official letter from CMS.
Some in Washington, including Cornyn, are speculating that the Biden administration had alternative motives to persuade state officials to accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.
Biden signed an executive order Jan. 28 instructing agencies to review “demonstrations and waivers, as well as demonstration and waiver policies, that may reduce coverage under or otherwise undermine Medicaid or the ACA (Affordable Care Act).”
Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents according to the 2019 Census at 18.4%.
“It’s pretty bold to admit that this was not about an administrative error at all, but about forcing a Medicaid expansion on the state of Texas,” Cornyn said Wednesday.
Brooks-LaSure’s confirmation vote hasn’t yet been scheduled.