Supporters of Medicaid expansion for low-income Montanans are celebrating a major victory tonight, after the House approved the controversial bill.
It took two days of parliamentary maneuvers and multiple votes before Senate Bill 405 finally made it to the House floor for an up or down vote. But the chief opponent of the measure refused to give up.
Bozeman Republican Art Wittich brought the same amendments to the floor that he tried to attach to the bill in committee, including one that would completely erase the compromise plan and replace it with the Governor’s original Medicaid plan, which the House has already rejected.
He never got a chance to introduce that amendment. About ninety minutes into the debate, when Wittich rose for the third time to offer an amendment, another House member asked for a cloture vote. That ends debate. The House approved the cloture motion with 77 votes.
Wittich asked the chair of the session, Broadus Republican Lee Randall, to let him continue, but Randall ruled that Wittich's motion was out of order.
Wittich appealed Randall’s ruling and was voted down again. That ended the debate.
A minute later the house voted on the bill, passing it 54 to 46, with two more Republican supporters than originally thought.
The bill faces one more vote in the House, then a trip back to the Senate for concurrence on a minor amendment before going to the Governor’s desk. The Medicaid expansion bill could be signed into law by the end of next week.