Little Rock Leaving the KABF board meeting last evening, I stopped into the offices of the Arkansas Community Organizations, the old Arkansas ACORN, to see if they had gotten back from actions in Washington trying to block the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. There was a full house. I thanked one of the women who had been arrested trying to get the attention and support of the solidly Republican Arkansas delegation. They were all back home, safe and sound. We scratched our heads at the impossibility of understanding what a so-called “skinny” repeal might be, and went on our way.
I woke up to find that Arizona’s Senator John McCain, former Republican presidential candidate and Vietnam war prisoner and hero, still recovering from surgery and a likely fatal diagnosis of aggressive cancer, had cast the deciding vote to defeat the “skinny” repeal 51-48, joining two other Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Susan Collins from Maine along with all Democratic Senators. Who knows the full list of McCain’s reasons, though his comments about the secretive and exclusionary process that Majority Leader McConnell had used to write and bring the matters forward, had long been dismissive and hypercritical. Collins for her part has long been critical of the Republican bills and especially the singling out of Planned Parenthood for defunding. Murkowski understands the need in Alaska for coverage from the lobbying of hunters, fisherman and others who have pleaded with her to keep the protection, but she also may have straightened her back in response to the ham-handed bullying the White House had tried to orchestrate using the secretary of the Interior Department, even though Murkowski herself as head of one committee on natural resources and a subcommittee on appropriations effectively holds the whip hand over Interior’s budget.
But, who cares the reasons, as long as the result is right in this case, because this whole process and its future prospects, had it been approved, was rotten to the core and a perversion of democracy, good government, and sound policy. It starts at the point the bill was being presented as a budgetary matter, even though it is larded up with everything under the sun from eliminating Planned Parenthood to removing essential coverage and mandates. Remember the Parliamentarian had already warned them these items were subject to challenge because they were out of bounds. McConnell had adopted this secretive and controversial strategy for the simple reasons that he doesn’t have the 60 votes to stop a filibuster and doesn’t want to work for a bipartisan fix on healthcare that would mean having to work with the Democrats. In the end he has also proven he doesn’t even have 50 votes at this point.
Furthermore, the strategy was to try and put a ribbon on a garbage bag, and then pass it over to the House so that maybe in a conference between the House and Senate, they could compact something together, since the House had already passed a draconian bill earlier. Several Senators, including McCain had demanded assurances from Speaker Ryan and the House, and he was trying to help them. How is this democratic? The peoples’ representatives can’t share the process with the people, but then go to another closed process to sort it out. Ryan reminded them in an aside that they would still have to get to 51 votes even after everything went through the grinder.
We’re dealing with a Republican healthcare replace-and-repeal zombie apocalypse. Is it really dead now except for Trump’s twitter rants? How will they fix what needs to be fixed? Will this ugly head be raised again? How many goal line stands can we win?