Today’s Top Story: At 1:30 am on July 28, 2017, something amazing happened. The clerk called the roll of yay votes, and there was a notable name missing: Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Then the clerk called the nays, and again, amazement: McCain’s name appeared! The final vote was 49 yay to 51 nay. Perhaps the most momentous and consequential vote since TARP and the ACA… and it did not carry. The other two no votes, Collins (R-ME) and Murkowski(R-AK) have been consistently criticized the bill and its process and held to firm no votes throughout.
This vote was for the so called “skinny repeal” of the ACA. The provisions would have resulted in 16 million people losing their health insurance. That’s about 1 in 20 adults in the United States. It would have cut $235 billion (with a ‘b’) from Medicaid over 10 years. There would have been annual premium increases of approximately 20%. All to save $184 million (with an ‘m’) over 10 years. To put that in perspective, that’s about 35% of this year’s defense budget. In short, the bill was disastrous.
Through the process of trying different (but equally destructive) repeals through a series of procedural games, many a Senator’s hypocrisy was on full display. In particular Senator McCain, who gave a speech Wednesday decrying the loss of regular order while voting to proceed. McConnell and his Senators did their best to keep going, ignoring hearings and stifling debate and shunning anything resembling regular order. The latest plan was to vote for something awful–a new version of “skinny repeal”–while telling caucus members that the bill was a placeholder that would be fixed in committee (although signs pointed to the House potentially circumnavigating that process by immediately passing the “placeholder” bill for subsequent signing by President Trump and certain, massive harm to the country). That a bill affecting 1/6th of the American economy and tens of millions of Americans came close to being passed in a matter of hours in the dead of night is, frankly, a terrifying sign of the fragility of our democracy in its current state of crisis.
McCain was not the only Republican Senator to decry the process while still participating in it. A group of Republican Senators–McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Johnson (R-WI), and Cassiday (R-LA) also spoke out during a press conference on the morning of the 27th, deploring the secrecy, the lack of regular order, the lack of hearings and debate, and so on. Just as McCain’s speech did not prevent him from voting yes on the motion to proceed Wednesday, these sensible objections did not prevent Graham, Johnson, and Cassiday from ultimately supporting the “skinny repeal” vote after midnight that night.
In the end, however, Senator McCain partially redeemed himself for enabling the repeal and replace process, because his vote is the one that killed this version of the bill. Now, the bill was returned to the calendar, so it’s not completely dead, but at least for now, the ACA is relatively safe. McConnell has another two months before he loses his slot for a health care reconciliation bill, and the executive branch continues to sabotaging the exchanges, so uncertainty remains and the fight is not over. But for now, those rooting against repeal can rest easy.