By John Hanna | March 7, 2020
TOPEKA, Kan. — Jim Denning once symbolized what for Medicaid expansion supporters was wrong with the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature. Now, the Kansas Senate majority leader is an expansion champion who’s under fire from some GOP lawmakers he’s supposed to be leading for working with the state’s Democratic governor.
Denning recently faced criticism from Republicans for appearing at events with Gov. Laura Kelly to promote an expansion plan that she and Denning drafted. Some GOP lawmakers worry that he’s undercutting their strategy of holding Medicaid expansion hostage to pressure fellow lawmakers into moving forward with their top priority: an anti-abortion measure. Some also see his efforts as a calculated ploy for voter support in his suburban Kansas City district.
Less than a year ago, Denning’s face appeared on protest signs and leaflets, and banners hung briefly in the Statehouse rotunda proclaimed him among the GOP leaders with “blood on their hands.” His opposition to an expansion bill Kelly favored was key to preventing its passage.