A divide among Republican governors: To accept Medicaid money or not

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SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Republican governors remain divided over whether they should have accepted additional Medicaid funding from the Obama administration in exchange for the governors' cooperation in implementing Obamacare.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is among the governors who accepted the money -- and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who, like Christie, is considered a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender, said Christie's decision to accept the money raised questions about the governor's conservative credentials.

“In the case of the New Jersey governor, I think embracing Obamacare, expanding Medicaid in his state is very expensive and not fiscally conservative," Paul told CNN. “Many Republican governors I would say are conservative did resist expanding and accepting Obamacare in their states."

The Supreme Court ruled last year that states could accept or reject the Medicaid expansion that's an integral component of President Obama's new health care law. Now, the issue could prove to be a litmus test for those Republican governors considering presidential runs.

Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich both accepted the federal funding to expand Medicaid in their states. Other potential Republican presidential candidates — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — all rejected the funding.

"I've looked at all the reasons to be against it, and it was really pretty simple for me," Kasich said Wednesday at the Republican Governors Association conference in Arizona. "It was never a question ... I have a decision to make: $14 billion or no?"

The money, Kasich said, will allow the state to pay for mental health services that have been pared back in recent years.

"Can I judge why other people don't want to do it?" Kasich said of some of his fellow Republican governors. "I don't think that's fair. But for me, it is the right thing to do, it's going to save lives, and it's going to help people."

Kasich endured harsh criticism from many of his fellow Republicans for accepting the Medicaid money, which some of his peers consider a tacit acceptance of Obamacare.

"I don't get mad at these people," he said, "I just think sometimes, they've never been in somebody else's shoes."

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Rebecca Berg

Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner