AUGUSTA — A group of Republican lawmakers is pressuring House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, to recuse himself and his staff from advocating for Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act because of Eves’ job with a mental health care provider that accepts Medicaid patients and holds Medicaid-funded contracts.

A group of Republicans, led by Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, scheduled a news conference at noon Wednesday in the State House to urge Eves to recuse himself because of his affiliation with Sweetser. A letter to Eves signed by 26 House Republicans calls on him to “halt all activities promoting legislation to expand Medicaid enrollment in Maine.”

“We believe that your singular advocacy for Medicaid expansion in the first session of the 126th Legislature, while you simultaneously served as director of business development for a major Medicaid beneficiary, has created the appearance of a conflict of interest, if not an actual conflict of interest,” reads the letter. “You acknowledged the inherent conflict between your work and your legislative leadership role when you took a leave of absence from your employer. However, you were not on a leave of absence when you voted as a member of the Legislative Council to allow reconsideration of Medicaid expansion in the second session. We believe that action was contrary to the letter and spirit of Joint Legislative Rules that prohibit reconsideration of bills that were voted on in the first session.”

No members of Republican legislative leadership signed the letter.

Eves said in a written statement Wednesday that he will not recuse himself from the debate.

“As a healthcare professional, I have seen firsthand how important it is for Maine families to have access to a family doctor. I’ve seen firsthand how lack of health care can tear families apart, can bankrupt families and lead families to financial ruin. I care deeply about kids that commit suicide, adults with schizophrenia and their families that struggle daily with the realities of mental illness,” said Eves. “And that alone motivates me to fight for health care for Maine people. I will never stop fighting for people to have access to health care or for those who struggle with mental illness. To be clear, those are the reasons why I am deeply committed to accepting federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people.”

Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for Eves, said he takes an unpaid leave of absence from Sweetser during legislative sessions simply because of the timing and the fact that his legislative duties would make doing his job difficult.