“Part of the reason I think people feel we’re underperforming,” says a frustrated McConnell in the clip below, “is because too many artificial [procedural] deadlines … may not have been fully understood” by the president. Is that so?
I think maybe there’s another reason.
2010: Elect us to stop Obamacare.
2011: Can't stop it without Senate.
2015: We need the WH to stop Obamacare.
2017: We can't stop Obamacare.
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) March 7, 2017
Trump’s penchant for whining about the filibuster does McConnell no favors, but consider this: What if the Senate had followed regular order from the start in repealing and replacing ObamaCare? One reason why people are frustrated with the pace of repeal is that Ryan and McConnell framed it as something that could — and should — be done quickly, with bills written in secret by the leadership, airdropped onto the floor, then rammed through on party-line votes. The garbage “skinny repeal” bill that crashed and burned two weeks ago was written the day of the vote. If the Senate had made a run at the bill the old-fashioned way, with committee hearings, mark-ups, floor debate, amendments, etc, McConnell would have been on firmer ground in making the “these things take time” argument. The way he and Ryan played it, they shouldn’t have taken time.
But that just brings us back to Klein’s point. McConnell played it the way he did because he knew his caucus wouldn’t have been able to agree on a bill written via regular order. The ideological spread is too wide between the Collins/Murkowski wing and the Paul/Lee wing and his majority is too narrow. His best bet was a gut-check vote in which the leadership slapped a bill on the table in front of Senate Republicans and growled, “It’s this or ObamaCare forever.” It nearly worked.
Needless to say, though, the realties of legislating were always going to be an awkward fit with Trump’s “superhero” campaign image. Populists elected an alpha male to go to Washington, knock heads together, and roll out one can-do triumph after another in quick succession — repeal, the wall, infrastructure, and so on. Trump was always setting his fans up for disappointment that way, and that disappointment was always more likely to burn McConnell and Ryan than Trump himself. We’ll know in 15 months if the GOP will pay a price for it.