I’m sorry if I offended anybody with the title of this post, but Senator McCain needs to wake up. Hero-level military record and distinguished past service in the Senate notwithstanding, he is rapidly becoming an albatross around the neck of the Republican Party. In fact, the rationale he outlined in his September 22 statement on why he will be a “No” vote on the Graham/Cassidy bill has made him the Republican Old Paradigm “poster child” of the Major Paradigm Shift Well Underway in this country [Senator McConnell is First Runner-up]. The clear winner of the Democrat version of that designation [now that Harry Reid is no longer eligible] is Nancy Pelosi, with Chuck Schumer as First Runner-up.
Time Out …
Let me say before going on that the Graham/Cassidy bill is not the best alternative for dealing with the choice the ACA has put in our path: 1) its imminent collapse when we finally realize we simply can’t afford it in its current form; 2) its becoming the “straw that broke the camel’s back” as it rapidly accelerates our movement toward financial insolvency; 3) its repeal; or 4) its repeal, with something we can afford established in its place. The current procrastination can only continue until #1 rises to the level of “Clear and Present Danger”, at which time we’ll be in a panic to do something because #1 will have by then become our “choice”. If #2 hasn’t simultaneously become reality by then, there may still be some hope that something can still be done to at least stem the tide. I don’t think anybody in our elected leadership actually wants us to choose #3 [unfortunately, their disdain for it stems more from their individual political assessments of it than from a desire to do what’s best for America]. That leaves #4 as the only choice that makes any sense.
So the reason I’m taking the approach I chose for this post is not that I think the Graham/Cassidy bill is the best solution to the ACA dilemma. It’s because I’m convinced that 1) it’s the best option so far that has risen to near-passage status [a major part of my rationale for that assessment being that it separates the Medicaid aspects of the ACA (only about 10% of its text) from the parts (the other 90%) that make it the disaster it is], 2) it’s too late to start from scratch with anything that can pass with 51 votes, and 3) anything that can gain the support of eight Democrats will probably lose the support of at least that many Republicans, so our choices will be back down to #1 and #2.
Statement Announcing “No” Vote — What Did He Actually Say?
I don’t mean in any way to disparage Senator McCain as a person. He is a fine man, and he has served his country in many positive ways during his remarkable life. However, in his statement explaining his position, he said three things that clearly give him a prominent seat on the Old Paradigm bus that is rapidly approaching the cliff that will precipitate its final descent into the Valley Of Oblivion:
- “Healthcare reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdiction should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment. That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform. … We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009.”
- “Senators Alexander and Murray have been negotiating in good faith to fix some of the problems with Obamacare.”
- “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.”
Earth To Senator McCain …
In the New Paradigm that is rapidly developing [obviously outside your field of vision], your wistful reference to “regular order” makes about as much sense as a General today wishing wars would go back to battles in which ranks of soldiers line up and shoot at each other. “Regular order” has been dead for at least nine years, and it was on life support for a considerable amount of time even farther back than that. Vilifying and obstructing the majority party on every front clearly has not worked for either party during that time period, and “bipartisan efforts” today only surface when something HAS to be done and the majority party can’t ram its agenda through [and even in those situations, those efforts are not truly bipartisan because both parties have too many deep-seated ideologically- and campaign-donor-based positions from which they will not budge].
Senators Alexander and Murray have not been “negotiating in good faith to fix some of the problems with Obamacare”. They have simply been trying to find a palatable way to throw more money into a failing program [e.g., by capitulating on the issue of “Cost Sharing Reimbursements” (CSRs) that prop up insurance companies]. Their plan wouldn’t “fix” anything. It would simply postpone some of the more visible symptoms of the underlying problem — which is a program that cannot survive in its current form.
Even if a “full CBO score” had been available before you announced your opposition, you still would not have known “how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it”. Democrats didn’t know that when [in your words describing that process] “they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009” because the CBO score was based much more heavily on assumptions than on facts. The CBO scores of recent failed proposals have the same flaw, as would the score of the Graham/Cassidy bill if it were available [only a very preliminary — and therefore even more meaningless — version was released on 9/25]. Hardly anybody of any political persuasion can produce a fact-based argument that the CBO projection of the 2009 partisan bill that became the ACA in 2010 projected the financial disaster we have today.
Why Single Out Senator McCain?
As to why I singled out Senator McCain and didn’t mention others who may end up being the deciding “No” vote which when added to McCain’s and Paul’s will scuttle the bill [e.g., Murkowski, Collins (who said 9/25 that she’s a “No”, but that could just mean the Maine-centric sweeteners the leadership has offered aren’t yet sweet enough for her), perhaps others], that was a conscious omission for a very good reason [my making the phrase end up in bold type is a clue] — but I’m already over my self-imposed length limit here. I’ll probably get to that in an upcoming post entitled Last Chance On The ACA? Or Not?.
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Charles M. Jones