Mitch McConnell is showing his confidence in the Senate deliberations over Trumpcare by displaying the upper chamber’s version in a “locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard.”*
Actually, it’s a lot harder to find than that. This is what Medicaid-expansion state senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently sniped to a reporter:
I have no idea if we even have a bill. I learn more from you all.
As the Washington Post put it:
“We aren’t stupid,” one GOP Senate aide told Caitlin Owens — they know what would happen if they made their bill public. Even Republican senators who aren’t part of the 13-member working group crafting the bill haven’t been told exactly what’s in it.
The same article quoted this tweet from Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News:
I have covered every major health bill in Congress since 1986. Have NEVER seen anything like this. This is how a party acts when it is ashamed of what it is about to do to the American people. Yet all it would take to stop this abomination is for three Republicans to stand up to their party’s leaders and say, “No — I won’t do this to my constituents.”
They’re probably already pretty nervous after the GOP baseball shooting. That crime was committed by a man with a history of violence who had grown unhinged, but there are a lot of people like that out there. And not all of them are Freedom Caucus members.
Mitch McConnell: The Modern Machiavelli
But that’s not to suggest a version of Trumpcare won’t pass the Senate. Mitch McConnell is the savviest politician to come around the pike in at least a generation. Though he failed to limit Barack Obama to a single term, McConnell engineered a Republican congressional majority, crippled President Obama’s second term, and put in place a nearly yearlong unprecedented Supreme Court nomination embargo, ensuring a continuing conservative majority.
Indeed, Neil Gorsuch’s appointment has been termed the McConnell seat.
The good news and the bad news is that Ol’ Mitch sticks to the longview, eschewing short-term gain as he lays his schemes for the long haul. That’s why he brushed off Trump’s “suggestion” that he nuke the filibuster to ease the AHCA’s passage. McConnell knows that someday, the Democrats will seize the gavel. That wouldn’t have done much anyway, since the real problem is corralling enough Republican senator to reach 50 votes (plus Mike Pence’s tie-breaker).
Still, if the majority leader judges that it would be politically damaging to pass the Senate version of the AHCA (as in, imperilling the GOP majority), he won’t let it come up for a vote. Ditto if he can’t corral the two GOP votes he needs — the Republican margin is that narrow.
This is a very distinct possibility.
But it would be a mistake to write off the McConnell’s chances for success. If anyone can do it, Mitch can.
Shelley Moore Capito is already signalling that she’ll accept a slower healthcare disenfranchisement for her constituents who gained coverage thanks to the Medicaid expansion. Susan Collins, as the Senate’s token “moderate,” has perennially disappointed when push comes to shove.
If McConnell thinks he has the votes and if he believes he has no choice but to appease the base and fulfill repeated vows to “rip out Obamacare root and branch,” then he may put the bill up for a vote…even if it potentially imperils the GOP majority.
He may be confident enough in the power of his dark arts to spin the Senate’s version of Trumpcare as kinder and gentler.
And, to be fair, what little we know of the Senate plan suggests that they’ll eliminate the AHCA’s authorization of waivers permitting states to charge people with pre-existing conditions exorbitant rates. That’s a huge issue with me (and millions of others with pre-existing conditions). Yet it would still permit essential benefits to go bye-bye.
So, maybe your cancer will be covered…but not the chemotherapy. And anything not considered an essential benefit would be subject to yearly and lifetime payout limits.
You see, McConnell doesn’t actually care that millions will still lose their healthcare. Indeed, it appears that in order to allow expansion state senators to claim they aren’t kicking constituents off the rolls, they may finance the additional Medicaid recipients by allowing states to instead throw off people on Medicaid disability (like me) off the rolls.
Eh, they’re probably too disabled to vote, anyway.
The majority leader doesn’t care a whit about the healthcare issue. It was an effective cudgel against the Obama administration, and nothing more. McConnell knows that he can’t afford to let the people — you know, the electorate — see what’s in the GOP plan. That’s why both he and Paul Ryan decided to bypass the usual committee deliberations…and why McConnell timed the motion to take place during Ex-FBI Director James Comey’s blockbuster Senate testimony.
After drafting the bill in secret, McConnell will put the bill on the floor with little time for senators to read it before they’re called for a vote. No debate, no testimony, and no deliberation. Regarding one sixth of the economy.
Now that’s a bypass demolition worthy of the Vogons. But at least the Vogons posted notice in the local planning department in Alpha Centauri.
Will the resulting healthcare plan be more painful than Vogon poetry?
*Thanks for all the fish (and the quotes), Douglas Adams.
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