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Wednesday, July 26, 2017


"We have seen this with cults and religions."

by Tom Sullivan

Saucepan Revolution, Iceland, 2008-2009.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., appeared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show last night after the Senate voted 51-50 to begin debate on ... something unspecified related to gutting Americans' access to health care. Warren was defiant, visibly shaken, and emotional at the prospect that Republicans might vote to take away health care coverage from tens of millions. Madame professor was gone. A mother was speaking:

For me, it's about the families ... This is about the mammas and the daddies who were out there, who ended up just creating a crowd this afternoon after our vote to stand on the steps of the United States Capitol and to plead, plead for health care coverage for their children.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote for Republicans to begin debate after Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a few days out of brain surgery, flew in on a private jet to vote for the motion. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who had reason to give Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) his middle finger, spent ten minutes speaking with a tense and red-faced McConnell before voting aye after McCain did.

There will be a lot of histrionics over the next few days, but even for Republicans they could be meaningless even if something passes out of the Senate. David Dayen and Ryan Grim explain at The Intercept:
This upends the long-standing promise McConnell made these wavering senators over health care. He said repeatedly that they would have the opportunity to amend the bill to their liking on the floor, if they’d only pass a motion to proceed. Even in his floor speech before the vote, McConnell referred to an “open amendment” process, where Senators could “work their will.”

But what McConnell has set in motion would rob these Senators of that ability.

That’s because skinny repeal is just a vehicle to advance the process, as Thune articulated. What’s in it doesn’t really matter, and that includes any additional amendments senators manage to attach. The real action would occur in that House-Senate conference negotiation, where the leadership teams of both Republican caucuses would hash out the final bill. Portman, Murkowski, Heller and their colleagues would be as distant from that negotiation as they were from knowing what they would voted on today.

And then the so-called moderates, with no chance to pass an amendment, would be told to vote for the bill out of party solidarity, to keep the seven-year promise of repealing Obamacare. They would face enormous pressure to advance a bill they had no say on. It is the exact opposite of what McConnell promised.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told a crowd following the vote:
Make no mistake about it: There is no doubt-and we all know when the bill gets to conference-who’s going to call the shots. The Freedom Caucus which will be for full repeal or something even worse than what came from the House. And remember-on the House bill, a whole number of Republican Senators said they wouldn’t vote for it.

Those Republicans promised they could make changes will face an up-or-down vote on whatever emerges from the conference, with even more pressure to pass it than they faced on Tuesday.

After the vote, McCain delivered a self-serving lecture about how the Senate doesn't behave like the Senate anymore, having just reaffirmed the non-deliberative process he decried. That he drew plaudits for a speech after failing to take a stand spoke more loudly than his words. Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke with Slate after the vote. What is on display in the Senate, particularly among Republicans "of otherwise admirable character and intelligence," is behavior similar to people fearful of being shunned by their tribes. "We have seen this with cults and religions." Ornstein explains our system is supposed to defend itself against, "I will be blunt, a deranged president." And yet, members with larger responsibilities are jumping to his tune. "This vote tells me: Be very afraid."

Clearly, some Democrats are. Warren is.

Yes, this is very tiresome. But that's how it is with zealots. When you run out of steam, they run right over you. Not this time. Look, I'm not the protesty type. But I ran by a dollar store the other day and grabbed a cheap pot and a wooden spoon to keep in the car. You never know where you'll be when a deranged president fires Robert Mueller and sparks "the greatest constitutional crisis since Watergate." Besides, I might need them before that. I thought what Icelanders did in 2008-2009 was pretty cool.

Go watch the Warren interview (can't embed here).