Assembly Speaker Vos vows to 'never' take Medicaid expansion money

MADISON — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos vowed Tuesday to never accept federal Medicaid expansion money and defended his decision not to punish a member of his caucus for inappropriate racial and sexual comments to three female lawmakers.

Vos made the remarks to reporters immediately following an appearance at a Madison luncheon. Asked if he would take the expansion money as a means of striking a deal on other legislation should Democrat Tony Evers defeat Gov. Scott Walker in November, Vos responded emphatically: "Not going to happen. No way. Never."

Vos said Medicaid can't cover patient costs as it is, forcing the private sector to pick up the tab. Expanding the rolls would mean the private sector would have to subsidize even more people, he said.

"All it does is make the private system less stable," Vos said.

Walker has rejected federal dollars to expand Medicaid available through the Affordable Care Act. As a result the state has missed out on close to $700 million in federal aid since 2014. Walker instead created a hybrid system for covering the poor that resulted in everyone earning less than the poverty level having insurance. Vos called Walker's approach "a better solution."

Vos also defended his handling of Republican Rep. Rob Brooks, who stepped down from his post as assistant majority leader last week. Brooks made the decision after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that he told state Rep. Jessie Rodriguez that he was buying everyone drinks except her because she's Hispanic and made sexual comment to state Reps. Cindi Duchow and Amy Loudenbeck, all following a July caucus meeting in Wisconsin Dells. Brooks said he was drunk when he made the remarks.

"I regret that I made some stupid comments while under the influence of alcohol after our caucus in the Dells," Brooks said in a statement. "I take full responsibility for my behavior and have apologized for my actions."

Walker demanded he resign but Brooks refused, choosing instead to give up his leadership post.

Asked why Brooks didn't face any penalties, Vos said he spoke with the three legislators, who told him that they'd already reported the remarks to the Assembly chief clerk, Brooks had apologized to them and they wanted to keep the matter private.

"(Brooks) did the right thing, which is to say 'I'm just going to step away and focus on my district because it's better for my caucus' so that's where we ended up," Vos said. "It should have been a private matter because that's the way the victims wanted it."

In other remarks during the luncheon, Vos said he supports tolling as the most viable way to raise revenue for road construction; legislators should continue drawing district boundaries despite accusations of gerrymandering because no one is independent and political bias is part of democracy; and he's confident Republicans will emerge from the November elections with an Assembly majority in at least the mid-50s. The GOP currently controls the chamber 64-35.