As expected, along with a Republican lawmaker’s public refusal to vote to repeal Obamacare — more formally known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — came a response from the “troller in chief,” Donald Trump.
Sen. John McCain reiterated on Friday what he already made clear on the previous Sunday, that he would vote “no” for the latest repeal bill which triggered a response from the President during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama. In his response, Trump said that McCain was always talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare but that when it came down to it, he decided to do something else.
The President said about McCain’s decision that it was fine but that they would repeal and replace the ACA eventually, suggesting that Trump will continue to pressure Republicans in Congress to keep trying. He went after the senator again on Twitter Saturday morning.
John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill, which his Governor loves. He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
McCain’s reasons for rejecting the bill has a lot to do with restoring regular order which Republicans are refusing to do in order to pass this bill. For John McCain and a scarce number of Republicans, this means to hold hearings.
The “face” of the bill is currently Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who himself has tried to negotiate to legislating under regular order. Republicans are also up against a September 30 expiration date to vote under the rules of reconciliation, which will allow them to pass a bill by a simple majority rather than the standard 60 vote threshold. It should be noted that not one Democrat wants to be part of the repeal process.
This is because the Senate doesn’t have enough Republicans to pass without reconciliation rules in place to lower the number of votes they need. If holding hearings are a way to get McCain on board, then Republicans are willing to get by with as little regular order as they can, so, they’re scheduled to hold one hearing on today with the Senate Committee on Finance.
There’s no doubt that they will be rushing through the hearing, as it’s hard to see what senator will testify about the proposal and without it being scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), there’s little information yet available for them to target specific details. At the speed that Senate Republicans are moving for this bill, they’re not really interested in a CBO score.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked the CBO to score the bill on September 15 and at the earliest, they will have a preliminary rating on today. But the office won’t be ready with a full score until right up to the deadline. In a September 20 episode of The Weeds podcast, Sarah Kliff said that this repeal bill would only be eligible for 90 seconds of debate on the Senate floor.
This is because the Graham-Cassidy bill — as it’s being referred to — is being considered an amendment to the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) which is the health care bill the Senate came up with in May after House Republicans passed their American Health Care Act (AHCA) to the Senate.
The Senate had to write their own “bad” bill after they received the House’s “terrible” bill which they immediately rejected saying they would write their own. So, it would appear that regular order of holding a “hearing” and perhaps holding a vote, with a preliminary budget score could be all Senate Republicans will need to entice McCain to vote yes.
But, the Arizona senator has also said that it’s time to return to bipartisan legislation, which senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have been working on, already completing the final hearing of four on September 14. But according to the Business Insider, negotiations for a bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill also collapsed this week.
During the second full week of September, in order to avoid another humiliating defeat — as Republicans had repeatedly failed to pass repeal bills a countless number of times this year — McConnell said that he would not bring the Graham-Cassidy bill to a vote on the floor unless Sen. Graham and Cassidy were able to whip up enough supporters.
Also, some of the reasons for why any hopes to pass the Alexander-Murray were killed this week was because of opposition built up by Sen. Orrin Hatch who referred to cost-sharing reduction plans as bailouts. Then House Speaker Paul Ryan told Senate leaders that the bipartisan effort would be thrown in the trash along with a similar message from the White house.
Democrats themselves started getting behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) effort for a single-payer plan which the senator himself even acknowledged had no chance of passing. President Trump even threatened to veto the bill if it did pass the Senate.
And even though McConnell said after the last defeat, that it might be time to work across the aisle, it would be a surprise to see McConnell actually do so as he’s made no effort to entertain the idea since. But, as Trump has already gestured that they would keep trying to repeal Obamacare, it’s obvious that Senate Republicans aren’t really held to a September deadline.
On January, the rules of reconciliation would start again and so there’s no doubt that Republicans will continue to operate on a partisan basis. If all it takes are hearings and a partisan version of normal order; Senate Republicans could convince enough of those senators who are holding out to vote “yes” for another repeal later down the line. Or, they could just wait until they could get a larger Republican majority during the mid-terms and have the votes they need.