Sometimes it’s best to wait. Commentary can wait. Commentary will have to wait. It’s coming up on midnight here in Los Angeles – the wee hours of the morning back east – and the big event just happened. Wise folks, and some not so wise, will chat all about it on cable news shows in the morning. There will be official statements from the office of this politician or that. As the sun rises over the Potomac, or just before it rises, there will be a Trump tweetstorm – and later in the day there will be analyses and op-eds and whatnot, but this just happened:
The Senate on Friday rejected a new, scaled-down Republican plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, seemingly derailing the Republicans’ seven-year campaign to dismantle the health care law.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, cast the decisive vote to defeat the proposal, joining two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, in opposing it.
The 49-to-51 vote was a huge setback for the majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has spent the last three months trying to devise a repeal bill that could win support from members of his caucus.
The Republicans’ seven-year campaign to get rid of Obamacare just ended. It’s over. The third Senate try at something – anything – to end Obamacare wasn’t going to end it. For the record, not that it matters now, this was the final offer:
The new, eight-page Senate bill, called the Health Care Freedom Act, was unveiled just hours before the vote. It would end the requirement that most people have health coverage, known as the individual mandate, but it would not put in place other incentives for people to obtain coverage – a situation that insurers say would leave them with a pool of sicker, costlier customers. It would also end the requirement that large employers offer coverage to their workers.
The “skinny repeal” would delay a tax on medical devices. It would also cut off federal funds for Planned Parenthood for one year and increase federal grants to community health centers. And it would increase the limit on contributions to tax-favored health savings accounts.
In addition, the bill would make it much easier for states to waive federal requirements that health insurance plans provide consumers with a minimum set of benefits like maternity care and prescription drugs. It would also eliminate funds provided by the Affordable Care Act for a wide range of prevention and public health programs.
It was more of the same, but without massive cuts to Medicaid, but still deadly, and the Republicans knew it:
Before rolling out the new legislation, Senate leaders had to deal with a rebellion from Republican senators who demanded assurances that the legislation would never become law.
Senators Lindsey Graham South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, all Republicans, demanded ironclad assurances from House leaders that the bill would not be enacted.
“I’m not going to vote for a bill that is terrible policy and horrible politics just because we have to get something done,” Mr. Graham said at a news conference, calling the stripped-down bill a “disaster” and a “fraud” as a replacement for the health law.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had to step in:
On Thursday night, Mr. Ryan tried to reassure senators as he goaded them to act. “If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do,” he said in a statement. “The reality, however, is that repealing and replacing Obamacare still ultimately requires the Senate to produce 51 votes for an actual plan.”
But Mr. Ryan did leave open the possibility that if a compromise measure fails in the Senate, the House could still pass the stripped-down Senate health bill. Late Thursday night, Mr. Graham said that he now felt comfortable and would vote for the measure.
Lindsey Graham trusts Paul Ryan. John McCain heard Ryan’s caveat, and there was this:
“The skinny plan manages to anger everyone – conservatives who know it’s a surrender and know it doesn’t come close to the full repeal they promised, and moderates who know it will be terrible for their constituents,” said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York. He added, “You don’t vote to advance terrible legislation and hope it magically gets better in conference.”
Republicans found themselves in the strange position of hoping their bill would never be approved by the House.
McCain and Collins and Murkowski didn’t want to take that chance, and apparently didn’t want to be on record voting for what their fellow Republicans openly admitted was a disaster and a fraud. Forty-nine other Republicans were fine with that – this bill would be tossed out or fixed up later, somehow, maybe. They wouldn’t get that chance. The whole thing was a bit of a farce.
Jeffrey Young and Matt Fuller offer more detail and end with this:
At its heart, the dilemma is that the Republican Party does not have, and has never had, a clear vision of what kind of health care system it wants.
Republicans have become skilled at pointing out the Affordable Care Act’s failings and imperfections – the real ones, the exaggerated ones and the fabricated ones. But they have never agreed on how to fix those problems or how to reform the health care system in ways that deliver on their promises of lower costs and more choice.
Nearly 2,700 days have passed since Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Yet on the one day the Senate had its best chance to repeal it, Republicans still didn’t have a plan. The prospects of them doing so now appear dubious.
Mitch McConnell gave a little speech, a rather bitter little speech, but said it was time to move on – there were other things for the Senate to do. No one expects Donald Trump to move on. He’ll lash out. Someone will pay, big time. There will be tweets, devastating tweets, and Republicans may turn on him. His ridicule and threats, and casual disregard of the details of any of this, made matters worse for them – along with the chaos he has generated with the Jeff Sessions thing and all the rest. He may find himself completely isolated now – and his base will be puzzled. He can do no wrong. How did this happen?
They’ll have to work that out – and then there’s John McCain. He’s the hero now. In 1957, the future President Kennedy wrote a book about that – Profiles in Courage – about eight United States Senators who did the right thing, not the popular thing, and certainly not what their party wanted. He might be the ninth senator – unless he’s the goat, not the hero.
That can wait for the morning. Someone will tell America which it is and others will disagree. Someone will tell America that the Republicans are hopeless – they have no idea how to govern – they have no ideas – and others will disagree. Some will say that Trump was humiliated. Others will disagree. He will disagree – but this, as they say, changes everything – unless it doesn’t.
Someone will say that. Be patient. Wait for it. Everyone knows what’s coming.