By DAVID A. LIEB
Eds: Updates with quotes from chamber of commerce official and background on Sen. Bond. Adds byline.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond has been hired by a state business association to lobby his fellow Republicans in the Legislature to support Medicaid expansion.
Bond's lobbying firm is being paid by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Chamber President Dan Mehan said Bond already has met with Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon about the potential to expand Medicaid eligibility.
"He understands the issues very well, and we're trying to capitalize on his stature, his relationships that he has and his reputation as a one of the best statesmen that this state will ever have," Mehan told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Bond's lobbying firm did not immediately respond to a phone message Friday.
Bond voted against the federal health care law when it was passed four years ago. He said in December 2009 that President Barack Obama's health care plan would fail to lower costs or improve the quality of health care. He also criticized the legislation as being "chock full of political payoffs" for Democratic senators so that the party could obtain the votes necessary to stop a Republican filibuster.
Bond chose not to seek re-election in 2010 after serving in the Senate for 24 years. He previously served as state auditor and two terms as governor.
Over the past year, Missouri's Republican-led Legislature has repeatedly rejected proposals from Nixon and Democratic lawmakers to extend Medicaid eligibility to an estimated 300,000 additional lower-income adults. States that expand Medicaid eligibility under the terms of Obama's health law can receive enhanced federal Medicaid payments for those new enrollees.
Nixon's administration has said Missouri could get $1.7 billion of federal aid next year if it expands Medicaid.
Mehan said the Chamber of Commerce doesn't support the federal health care law, but nonetheless believes Missouri should expand its Medicaid program because the influx of federal money would help the economy. If Missouri's doesn't expand Medicaid, Mehan said the health care costs of the uninsured will be shifted to those covered through employer-sponsored health insurance plans.
Online records of the Missouri Ethics Commission show that Kit Bond Strategies registered as a lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce last week. The lobbyists listed include Bond and Jason Van Eaton, the firm's managing partner who was Bond's state director when Bond was a senator.
Mehan declined to say how much money the Chamber of Commerce was paying Bond's firm.
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