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Hullabaloo


Friday, July 28, 2017

 

Until next time

by Tom Sullivan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "skinny repeal" bill targeting the Affordable Care Act failed 51-49 late last night in the U.S. Senate, or what is left of it. Reports suggest McConnell's team wrote the 8-page bill yesterday over lunch.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut declared the process "nuclear-grade bonkers."

The mad spectacle of Senate Republicans throwing themselves at a legislative process that resembled anything but could only have been topped last night by them dousing the place with gasoline and setting themselves alight. Forget Obamacare's flaws. Forget prospective White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci's Sopranos threats. Forget the melodramatic lecture Tuesday by Senator John McCain, R-Az., about restoring "regular order." If Al Pacino had burst in and shouted the whole Congress was out of order, that would have felt more sane.

Late last night, all Republican senators but three solemnly voted for a bill they did not want passed.

At an impromptu press conference earlier, Sen Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., declared it "a disaster" and "a fraud." Joined by fellow Republicans McCain, Johnson of Wisconsin, and Cassidy of Louisiana, Graham told reporters they had been assured that if the shell bill passed, the real bill would be written, once again in secret, in the House-Senate conference committee.

"I'd rather get out of the way and let it collapse than have a half-ass approach where it is now our problem," Graham told the press. Before he could vote for it, Graham demanded assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan that the House would not pass the "skinny" bill as is. Receiving none, Graham voted to pass it anyway.

The three Republican dissenters when voting closed about 1:30 a.m. EDT this morning were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain.

Prior to the final vote, Ezra Klein wrote:

Nothing that is happening tonight makes the slightest bit of sense. All of it violates every procedural principle and policy promise Republicans put forth in the aftermath of Obamacare’s passage.

[...]

We are watching indefensible policy being pushed forward in an indefensible process in the hopes that it will eventually be signed into law and implemented by an indefensible administration. And what’s stranger is everyone involved knows it. All this comes mere days after Sen. John McCain received a standing ovation on the floor of the Senate for excoriating the way this effort, and the way his institution, was being run.
After all of it, McCain cast the deciding vote to "kill the bill" as protesters outside the Capitol demanded.

The irony is Chafee-Romney-Obama market-based health insurance plans have been kicking around since Richard Nixon drafted one to keep any Democratic single-payer plans at bay. Today's Republicans have no alternative plan because their plan is already law. Beside their attempts to sabotage it, the problems inherent in Obamacare are the failures inherent in their preferred approach. The greater problem is, of course, Republicans derisively branded the standing, Republican-inspired law after a Democratic president and, whatever the costs, that Must Not Stand.

"It's time to move on," a disappointed McConnell told the Senate chamber after the voting closed. Until next time. There will be a next time.

"We are not celebrating. We are relieved," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said afterwards.

Last night was a stinging defeat for Republicans. But there is little solace after McConnell and all but three of his caucus moved to abrogate democratic norms that have guided this country for decades if not centuries. All the protocols, all the arcane procedures senators from both parties learn to navigate and manipulate in their careers create, for better or worse, a known, predictable process for democratic governance. Like them or not, they provide some small stability at a time when Americans and the world could use some. All of that Republicans were poised to jettison in blind pursuit of an immediate "win." Not unlike the current resident of the White House, they are adrift without rudder or keel. And possessed perhaps by madness. There is little in that to find relief.

To adapt the aphorism, if you are not unnerved, you are not paying attention.

(h/t for photo: BHM)