House Rules Battle on Medicaid Expansion Compromise: Explained

TEA Party Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen tries to end MT legislative session rather than even debate GOP Medicaid expansion compromise bill

There has been some confusing reporting out about the TEA Party battle to block Sen. Buttrey’s compromise Medicaid expansion alternative from getting a full debate.

Here’s what you need to know.

1-The House leaders of each party made a deal. They agreed that each party had issues that were so important that every representative–not just a small group in committee–had a right to weigh in on, debate, and decide on behalf of all Montanans. Each party could have six chances to bring issues to the floor that were so important that everyone should get to hear and discuss.  They agreed that if an issue was important enough 51 legislators could vote to have a debate of the full house of representatives. Even if the bill failed in committee.  These chances to see if enough people wanted a full house vote were called “silver bullets.”

A silver bullet only brings a bill to the floor IF a majority of the full house of representatives agrees and votes to bring that bill the floor. It is only a chance to ask the full house if they would all like to have the opportunity to discuss a bill.

2-Hands were shook, and folks got to work. After the deal was made, GOP leaders then claimed there was an exception to the rules deal. They claimed that an obscure, almost never used motion known as an “adverse committee report” negated the deal they had made. They randomly started attaching a few “adverse committee reports,” here and there, to bills in an attempt to make reporters and others think this was a normal practice.  They claimed that any bill with this “adverse committee report” could never be debated by the full house.  It seems that when Speaker Knudsen made the agreement, he had his fingers crossed behind his back.

3-House Republicans on the House Human Services Committee used this trick to block HB 249, Governor Bullocks Medicaid expansion bill sponsored by Rep. Pat Noonan, from getting a debate by the full house of representative.

This meant that the GOP was claiming that a small group of 10 legislators could block the full house from having the opportunity to decide whether a bill could be debated on the floor–in spite of the agreement both sides had reached earlier.

4-Sen. Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls) introduced his compromise bill, SB405 in the Senate. That bill passed the Senate and was sent back to the House.  There was a hearing in the House Human Services Committee and Rep. Wittich and the members of his caucus again attempted to do the same thing. They attached an adverse committee report which they claimed made the bill exempt from ever getting a debate by the full house – even if the full house voted that they wanted to debate it.

5-House Minority Leader, Rep. Chuck Hunter (D-Helena) objected.  Rep. Hunter said that a deal is a deal and he asked the Speaker to stand by his word.

6-Speaker Austin Knudsen (TEA Party, Culbertson) said this was a matter for the rules committee.  The committee, which like all committees was chosen by GOP leadership and stacked with TEA Partiers, voted that the trick was valid.

7-The full house of representatives, which is dominated by Republicans,  overruled the small group of rules committee tea partiers. They wanted a chance to debate the bill, believing that every representative had the right to decide on matters this important. They thought the Medicaid expansion alternative introduced by Senator Buttrey was important enough that it should be debated by the full house — that it was too important to be decided by a small committee. (Especially since some house committees, Health and Human Services and Education for example,  were stacked with TEA partiers specifically to prevent the full house from getting to vote on certain bills.)

8.  And here’s where it really gets outrageaus.  Speaker Knudsen tried to end the entire legislative session and adjourn “sine die” as they say, to try to block the full house from even voting on whether they would like to debate Buttrrey’s Medicaid compromise or not.

You can see below a list of the lawmakers who voted with Knudsen to abandon the entire session without passing a budget, with the status of many bills left undecided –including many bills sponsored and demanded by his own party–all to prevent Montana from accepting OUR MONEY from the federal government to pay for health care for 70,000 working poor Montanans.

I’ve never seen anything like this happen in the Montana legislature before.

9-A bi-partisan coalition of republicans and democrats overruled the TEA Party ploy.  This coalition has been dubbed the “working majority” by session observers because they have been able to work to gather to move common ground proposals forward.



The full house of representatives will finally get a chance to discuss the issue today. You can watch online here:




10 Comments on "House Rules Battle on Medicaid Expansion Compromise: Explained"

  1. Time for this ‘TEABAGGERY’ to have consequences in 2016, how feckles and reckless votes by this infamous ‘mob’ to have a TEMPER TANTRUM and go home proves these ‘toddlers’ do NOT deserve to return in 2016, especially those
    ‘whining’ about being so ‘hard-worked’….

  2. This is not the right count for the votes that went on yesterday for SB405. the proper sequence no. 1500.\

  3. Correct – this is the vote to adjourn the session rather than vote on whether SB 405 should get a vote by the full house. This is not the vote to allow a full debate of SB 405. That vote can be seen here:$BSRV.ActionQuery?P_SESS=20151&P_BLTP_BILL_TYP_CD=SB&P_BILL_NO=405&P_BILL_DFT_NO=&P_CHPT_NO=&Z_ACTION=Find&P_ENTY_ID_SEQ2=&P_SBJT_SBJ_CD=&P_ENTY_ID_SEQ=

    • ISO list of all names of who voted re: bringing SB 405 to full floor.
      Considerable Thankyous for those fighting against treachery in the Treasure State.

  4. It’s pretty sickening that they are trying to hide their efforts to kill the bill in the dark of night- the speaker Mr. Knudsen has scheduled the debate as the very last bill to be on the floor in a special floor session that doesn’t even start until 5pm tonight and has a long list of bills befor it. You can run Mr. speaker but you can’t hide! The people of Montana will be watching by the thousands online!

  5. I was in the House gallery watching these shenanigans yesterday. Not only were the spectators stunned by these acts, but it looked to me as though many of the legislators were, as well. At times the motions came thick & fast, and were complex, so if a Legislator favored debating SB 405 in the full House s/he had to quickly assess whether to vote “aye” or “nay.” Wittich deployed not only specious arguments, but plenty of sarcasm. He not only holds the poor in disdain, but his colleagues and the institution of the Legislature, as well.

    If you favor passage of SB 405, call the Capitol switchboard before mid-afternoon today and leave that message for five “reasonable Republicans.” It’s 406-444-4800, and you might target Representatives McKamey, Myers, Moore, Welborn and Salomon.

    • Wittich was complaining about the ‘law of the jungle’ but he’s been the worst
      offender, trampling citizens and fellow legislators with his tyrannical behavior
      as the House ‘Death Panel’ Human Services chair, and NOW he’s getting some of
      his own ‘JUNGLE LOVE’ back, eat it!

  6. “that it was too important to be decided by a small committee.” City Councils are small committee’s and should represent all of us but a lot of those councils like the city of Missoula have already made of their minds on issues and we the public get lost in the shuffle. There is not much difference.

  7. Can someone please explain what the Rules Committee just did this afternoon (Friday, 5 PM)? Are they claiming the vote yesterday was invalid because it should have taken a supermajority to blast it out of committee? Doesn’t that violate the silver bullet agreement?

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