Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is spending part of this week at a posh beach resort with some of his closest allies, but ones who also could turn to foes depending on how the Republican field for president shakes out.
Republican governors, governors-elect and major GOP supporters from across the country are in Boca Raton, Florida, through Thursday for a Republican Governors Association meeting at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, a sprawling, bright-pink beachside complex with its own tennis courts, marina and golf course.
Jindal is among several GOP governors at the RGA event considering running for president. On Wednesday, he shared the stage with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for a panel talk called “The Road Ahead.”
They largely took turns bashing President Barack Obama’s positions on health care, immigration and the economy, but reports from the week indicate it also has been a sort-of celebration of victories in the midterm elections.
Jindal defended his decision not to expand Medicaid in Louisiana under the Affordable Care Act.
“Medicaid is a top-down government-run health care program,” Jindal argued. “It was never designed for able-bodied adults.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, Louisiana could have raised its Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $32,900 for a family of four — providing health insurance to an estimated 265,000 Louisiana residents.
The federal government is taking on the entire tab for the first three years, with the state gradually picking up 10 percent of the costs.
Jindal, whose administration is expected to announce state budget cuts Friday, said there should have been more flexibility built into Obama’s signature health care law. He said he once asked Obama during an event at the White House why states couldn’t have more options. “The president said he didn’t trust us, in so many words,” Jindal said.
Kasich, whose state did expand Medicaid, defended the decision, though he emphatically said he doesn’t support the federal health care law.
“Ronald Reagan expanded Medicaid because he said there were people being left out,” Kasich said. “Go try living on 138 percent of poverty — it’s not great.”
Several of the panelists took aim at Obama’s potential use of executive order to protect millions of immigrants from deportation. The president is expected to outline the plan Thursday night.
Jindal described Obama’s decision as “the height of arrogance.”
Perry threatened to file a lawsuit to block the executive order. Walker also suggested that the GOP should pursue a lawsuit to block Obama’s plans, rather than resort to a government shutdown.
The panel also was asked to discuss the timeline for seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
“I think the more legitimate question is, ‘When did it start?’ ” Perry said.
Jindal, who said on “Meet the Press” this weekend that he’d make an announcement sometime in the first half of 2015, replied that the focus should be on advocating Republican policies now and didn’t give a clear timeline. “We’ve got to start the fight, and by doing that we’ll be successful in 2016,” he said.
On Thursday, the Republican governors will decide the next slate of RGA leaders, which could ultimately impact Louisiana — home to one of the nation’s three gubernatorial races next year.
Jindal can’t seek re-election because of term limits, leaving the office open for a wide GOP slate — among them U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, with plenty of time for others to jump into the race.
Despite the election-year opportunity, and the normally coveted leadership role in the RGA, no clear front-runner for the chairman or vice chairman seats had emerged Wednesday — likely because so many are instead weighing runs for president or vice president.
Jindal served as RGA chairman in 2013 and is finishing a term as vice chairman.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.