The Republicans’ hopes of repealing the Affordable Care Act this year suffered a potentially fatal blow on Friday afternoon, when Senator John McCain announced he would oppose a last-ditch effort to ram a repeal measure through the Senate.
Rather than try to get a repeal measure past an all-but-certain Democratic filibuster, Mitch McConnell and friends tried to use budget reconciliation rules to get a repeal to the floor with only 51 votes rather than 60. But after a previous attempt failed in July, Republicans faced a deadline of September 30 to jam the bill through with just a simple majority, plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaking vote.
The Republican Senate leadership latched onto a proposal crafted by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana that would have replaced the Obamacare system with a block grant program administered by the states. A number of Republicans, such as Chuck Grassley of Iowa, openly admitted that they knew this bill was a turkey. They also knew they were voting on a bill without having any real idea how much it would cost or how many Americans would lose their coverage; McConnell intended to bring up the bill without giving the Congressional Budget Office time to score it. However, they felt obligated to support a repeal measure–any repeal measure–in order to keep the wolves among the GOP base away from the door.
McCain and Graham have been close friends for years, and it was thought that Graham’s role in crafting this latest repeal measure would be enough to get McCain to sign on.
Except that it wasn’t. Just as many of his constituents in Arizona were going to lunch, McCain made his decision.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 22, 2017
Cliff Notes version–if you want to pass a bill affecting a major sector of the economy, do it via regular order. In essence, this is a carbon copy of the same concerns McCain had when he deep-sixed the last repeal effort.
McCain’s opposition is critical. The Republicans could only afford to lose two of their 52 Senators on this bill. Rand Paul of Kentucky had already announced his opposition, saying that Graham-Cassidy isn’t a real repeal. Susan Collins of Maine hinted very loudly on Thursday that she doesn’t like this bill either, telling the Portland Press Herald that she’s concerned it would allow insurers to raise premiums to unaffordable levels. If these numbers hold and Collins, McCain, and Paul all join the Democrats in voting no, this bill in its current incarnation will go down, 51-49.
For their part, the Democrats are already waiting for the Republicans to come to the table. Among them is Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
I’m at the table ready to keep working & I'm confident we can reach a bipar agreement as soon as this latest partisan approach is set aside.
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) September 22, 2017
Murray had been working with committee chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee on a bipartisan effort to stabilize the individual market, but it foundered on Tuesday. With their only bargaining chip gone, the GOP may have no other option than to actually be constructive.
Predictably, the Trumpkins’ heads are already exploding. When Breitbart rolled out an article declaring that McCain had saved Obamacare again, the reaction was predictable.
“I have never in my life wished that cancer kill someone quickly and painfully. I despise John McCain even more from getting me there.”
“haven’t ever rooted for a disease before…but really wish that cancer would hurry up and do its job.”
“At some point we have to blame the people of Arizona. They put in mccain for 30+ years and we are now saddled with Jeff Flake also. The American people are suffering at the hands of Arizona republican voters stupidity.”
“Something has to save america from this creep. If cancer, so be it!”
“Poor Lindsey Gramnesty, his butt buddy has abandoned him for O’Douchebag.”
The rest of the nation is rejoicing, however. For now, anyway, the latest Republican effort to take a meat-ax to Obama’s legacy has cratered.
(featured image courtesy Chad McNeeley, part of public domain)