An impassioned plea by Governor Mike Beebe.
The state's top Democrat urged lawmakers to expand Medicaid in his State of the State address Tuesday. But the Arkansas Republican House Caucus isn't sold.
Beebe's last message for lawmakers was simple: don't succumb to party politics.
"We must resolve not to let Washington's animosity seep in and poison our well of civil discourse," Beebe said in his address. "Arkansas can't change the way things are done in Washington, but we can continue to set the example of how men and women with differing views can come together in the best interest of our citizens."
Beebe's admonition to eschew partisanship earned a standing ovation among Democrats and Republicans alike. And the governor didn't pull any punches, touting education, economic development and medicaid reform.
House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman says Republicans are willing to work with Democrats on Medicaid issues, "But that doesn't mean we can't have vigorous debate. Aand if we're debating the issue, and making our position known, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's partisan."
Westerman says the GOP caucus isn't sure that expanding the state's biggest program is in everyone's best interests.
"We believe first, before we talk about expanding anything, we need to look at reforming the existing system," Westerman said.