Friday, July 28, 2017


I didn't expect to wake up to this:
A months-long effort by Senate Republicans to pass health legislation collapsed early Friday after GOP Senator John McCain joined two of his colleagues to block a stripped-down Obamacare repeal bill....

The decision by McCain to vote no came after weeks of brinkmanship and after his dramatic return from cancer treatment to cast the 50th vote to start debate on the bill earlier this week. The GOP’s ‘skinny’ repeal bill was defeated 49-51, falling just short of the 50 votes needed to advance it. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski also voted against it.
Let's not give McCain all the credit for this. Anti-repeal activists fought fiercely. Democratic senators hung tough. And the two other Republicans who voted no showed courage.

And yet that wouldn't have been enough if McCain hadn't voted the way he did. And why did he even need to think about this vote? According to one recent poll, GOP health care proposals poll poll at 6% approval in Arizona. (And that's a survey in which Donald Trump has a not-terrible 47% approval rating.) But the unpopularity of the legislation doesn't matter. The junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake -- touted as a principled maverick in today's David Brooks column -- dutifully voted yes, and also dutifully tried to wrest a yes vote from McCain on the Senate.
Eventually, Flake was dispatched to talk to McCain.

He obliged, walked over to McCain and asked Graham to move over one seat. But McCain did not acknowledge Flake, focusing instead on Murkowski and Collins.

That left Flake, one of the most polite members of the Senate, leaning into the conversation uncomfortably with a pained look on his face, as if he had to tell his father that he had run over the family dog with his car.
Forty-nine Republicans voted yes on this massively unpopular bill. And I'm nearly certain that the number would have been fifty if McCain had had just a blood clot on the brain -- my ninety-year-old mother recently survived one of those -- rather than a glioblastoma, a particularly virulent form of cancer.

If he were healthy, McCain wouldn't be up for reelection until 2022, when he'd be 86. This was likely to be his last term, regardless of his health. And yet it took until now for him to make a serious break with his party -- a break he could have made just by staying in Arizona and not voting to allow consideration of the McConnell bills in the first place.

And despite his multiple denunciations of the process this week, he apparently came close to voting for the bill anyway:
Senators had no idea where McCain would land throughout much of Thursday, saying he vacillated in his position as the chaotic day unfolded. They had heard rumblings of three “nos” as early as Thursday afternoon, and one Republican insisted that the GOP could have secured McCain’s support had the vote been held earlier in the day.
The colleagues who joined him in a news conference, Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson, warned that they might vote no and then acquiesced. They still have careers they want to maintain. John McCain doesn't -- yet this vote was a near thing for him. The same goes for Capito and Heller and other people who wrung their hands throughout the process and voted yes anyway.

Death saved the ACA from Republican partisanship. I'm not sure there was anything short of death that could have done this.

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