2:07 p.m. UPDATE:
The state House of Representatives has again voted down an appropriations bill to continue the private option Medicaid expansion.
Representatives on Wednesday voted 68-27 against the funding bill. The vote came a day after the body voted 70-27 against it. Republican Reps. Ken Bragg and Denny Altes and Democratic Rep. Tommy Thompson shifted from "yes" votes on Tuesday to abstaining Wednesday. Green Party Rep. Fred Smith voted yes after not voting Tuesday.
Despite the bill falling short — by more votes than it did Tuesday — House Speaker Davy Carter didn't back away from his vow that it will eventually succeed.
"We're making progress," he said. "This bill will pass. We'll continue to vote."
Another vote in the House will occur Thursday afternoon. Carter said the Senate is expected to vote at 11 a.m. He added there seem to be some members who will vote if the Senate passes it first.
"I can't say that I fully understand the reasoning behind that, but I have heard that, so we'll see," he said.
Carter said he had "no clue" why the members who supported the bill Tuesday didn't vote Wednesday. And he reiterated a statement from the day before that negotiations on the bill are done.
"We're not going to pass substantive laws with a minority of the membership," he said. "That's not how this works, that's not how it's ever worked and it's not how it's going to work in the future. Again, it's not going to happen. So we can play this game every day — and I'm prepared to do that and will do that — but the end result is going to be the same."
The Senate, which had initially been set to vote on the bill, did not take it up Wednesday. Officials said during that session that its vote would come Thursday regardless of how the House vote went.
The Senate appears to have the necessary 27 votes for passage after a deal Tuesday with Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock. English agreed to shift from opposing the measure to supporting it in exchange for a statewide program that aims to better workforce training.
The private option narrowly passed last year but since lost at least two votes in the Senate. State Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, has said she will vote against it this year after supporting it in 2013. And Sen. John Cooper, R-Jonesboro, who was elected in a special election, opposes the private option. His predecessor, Sen. Paul Bookout, supported it.
Carter vowed at the start of the fiscal session last week that the private option would pass both the House and Senate, adding that failing to do so would create an about $90 million hole in the budget. After the failed vote Tuesday, he said the House would continue to vote — and would not engage in further negotiations — until it passed.
The private option plan allows the state to buy private insurance for Arkansans with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level using federal Medicaid money.
The program initially is covered entirely by federal funds, but the state by 2020 would have to pay for 10 percent of it.
Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.