Wow: McCain blows up health care reform again, says he can't support Graham-Cassidy "in good conscience"

Good lord. He mavericked the sh*t out of this one!

If you had John McCain nuking Lindsey Graham’s ObamaCare repeal bill in the pool, collect your winnings. Brother versus brother, RINO versus RINO, neocon versus neocon:


“As I have repeatedly stressed, health care 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, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority.

I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.

“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. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do. The issue is too important, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. 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.


McCain was in a tough spot. Obviously he didn’t want to tank a bill championed by his pal Lindsey, knowing this was the last chance for repeal this year. But he went all-in on the idea of returning to regular order on health care in the Senate in July, after he sank the “skinny repeal” bill. Graham-Cassidy was the opposite of that, another bill hurriedly slapped together without mark-ups, a CBO score, or floor debate purely to take advantage of the shrinking window for reconciliation. One White House official admitted to Politico that “we really aren’t sure what the impact will be” of the bill becoming law, which on the one hand makes sense given that the bill would create 50 separate state health-care regimes and on the other hand sounds ominously reminiscent of Pelosi’s infamous line about passing the bill to know what’s in it. If Maverick had supported Graham’s bill purely out of friendship after lecturing the country about regular order two months ago, he would have looked like a fraud.

The new leader of the Democratic Party is thrilled, of course:

McCain’s only one vote, though, right? McConnell can afford to lose two and still get it done. But Susan Collins, as usual, appears to be leaning no herself. And Rand Paul? Well, Rand is Rand:


“I won’t be bribed or bullied,” he vowed this morning. This has been Paul’s strategy from the start on repeal, presenting himself as a man of inviolate principle knowing that his home state of Kentucky benefits from ObamaCare’s continued existence. Rand *did* vote yes on “skinny repeal” a few months ago but he can live very happily with the idea of repeal failing, knowing that he’ll reap the ideological benefits from the right for refusing to compromise on small government and the electoral benefits from the rest of Kentucky in not bearing any blame for undoing ObamaCare. David Frum has called his approach “denounce and preserve.” That’s exactly what he’s set to do on ObamaCare by opposing Graham-Cassidy.

If McCain’s a hard no and Paul’s a hard no — what a pairing! — then either McConnell figures out a way to convince Collins to change her mind or it’s endgame for repeal, at least this year. Reporters are noting on Twitter that our irascible president, who’s never been a fan of McCain in the first place, is set to hold a rally six hours from now and will probably have something to say about the collapse of repeal efforts yet again. Buckle up.


Update: Trump might have extra reason to be mad at McCain tonight. Maverick might have blown up Luther Strange’s chances too.

Update: A fair question from Robert verBruggen. If Democrats are resolved not to vote for anything that would end up undoing ObamaCare, how can McCain demand a bipartisan approach?

It’s been clear since early this year, when Democrats rebuffed the original Cassidy-Collins bill, that no Democrat would support a repeal or deep reform of Obamacare. If McCain sincerely believes this, he should have been a firm no from the start, and shouldn’t have teased everyone by flirting with support for the various bills the Senate considered.

I assume McCain would say that he wanted the process to be bipartisan, whatever the floor vote ended up being. If Democrats had opportunities to amend the bill and to debate it on the floor, he could vote for that bill with a clear conscience even if they refused to avail themselves of those opportunities in protest.

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Jazz Shaw 8:01 PM on November 29, 2023