The news that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided to “delay” a vote on the Republican “healthcare” bill is being hailed as a victory by Senate Democrats, most state governors (Republican and Democratic) and just about everyone capable of reading.
Being the skeptic that I am, though, I’m not convinced that this thing is dead; far from it. True, it’s on life support, and McConnell certainly has his work cut out for him. Republicans only have a slim two-seat majority in the Senate, meaning they can only afford two “no” votes and still pass a bill through reconciliation. And right now McConnell has at least three “no” votes among the moderate senators who feel the bill is too cruel and as many as three “no” votes among the conservative senators who don’t think it’s cruel enough. I guess that means he has 46 senators who think it’s just cruel enough. [Sorry, I couldn’t resist the porridge pun]. Even if he manages to appease one camp, he’s still one vote shy of getting to the all-important 50 vote threshold. And that’s assuming that there aren’t any more defections within his caucus. Quite a conundrum for dear-old Mitch.
But like the House bill that everyone assumed was dead in its tracks until it suddenly wasn’t, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Republicans, it’s that you should never underestimate their ability to ignore the facts and plow full speed ahead. And if boy wonder Paul Ryan could cobble together enough votes to get his bill through the House, McConnell – even with a considerably smaller margin for error – is certainly capable of getting his through the Senate. And know this, McConnell could eat Ryan for breakfast and shit him out for lunch.
So, if I’m the Democrats, I’d hold off on the celebratory dances. You never leave before the fat lady sings. If they’re smart – and as of late, they’ve been anything but – now would be a good time for Chuck Schumer and a few centrist Democrats to reach out to Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, etc, and try to co-sponser an Obamacare fix that gives the GOP some of what they’ve been looking for – greater flexibility in selecting plans, less regulations, elimination of the employer mandate, more tax relief for middle-class families and small businesses – in return for assurances that the exchanges would be protected and better funded and the law itself would survive. In other words, reform, rather than repeal, the ACA.
Such a move would put a death knell in Republican plans to repeal the law and force McConnell to come to the table and negotiate. It would also give Democrats something to run on in the 2018 midterms. The four special election losses that they suffered should serve as a painful reminder to the Party that simply being against something – or someone – won’t be enough to retake the House next year, or, for that matter, win back the White House in 2020. Voters need a reason to vote for a candidate and Democrats must give them that.
Proving they can come up with solutions to problems instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching the other side fail will be an important first step for Democrats. While Trumpcare may be very unpopular, it’s not like Obamacare is a finely tuned engine. There are almost as many people who don’t like the ACA as there are people who hate what the Republicans are proposing. The GOP doesn’t quite get that because their base won’t let them. If Democrats can seize upon that opportunity and bridge the two camps they will prevail.
If they can’t, get used to seeing Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Donald Trump in charge of Washington for the foreseeable future.
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