Senate to vote tomorrow on … a Mystery Bill?
The good news: Senate Republicans plan to vote tomorrow on a motion to proceed to debate on a bill repealing ObamaCare. The bad news: No one’s quite sure which version of the bill will get the vote. Will it be the most recent version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), support for which collapsed amid recriminations within the Senate Republican caucus? Or will it be the straight-repeal and the two-year delay for the House’s AHCA as a placeholder?
Only Mitch McConnell’s hairdresser knows for sure:
[I]t is unclear what exactly the Senate will be voting on. The chamber will be voting to begin debate, known as a “motion to proceed,” but leaders have not yet said which bill the Senate will then be proceeding to.
The two leading options are a repeal-only measure or an updated version of the Senate’s repeal and replace bill. Both currently lack the votes to pass, but leaders are pressuring senators to revive the replacement bill, and at least vote to start debate. …
“We don’t even know what we’re proceeding to next week,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is opposed to both leading options. “I don’t know whether we’re proceeding to the House bill, a new version of the Senate bill, the old version of the Senate bill, the 2015 repeal and hope that we come up with something in two years bill, I truly don’t.”
Why choose at all? Rand Paul suggests throwing everything at the proverbial wall and seeing what sticks, including the conceptual suggestion from Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy:
“Let’s do a random selection,” Paul said. “Let’s have three or four of them, put them in random order, the first day, equal billing. I think that’s a compromise.”
It sounds like a mess, but it would serve to make one fact excruciatingly clear. Despite seven years of promises to repeal ObamaCare and several months of pledges to replace it with something that will benefit Americans, fifty-two Republicans have no coherent plan to fulfill either promise. Instead of coming together to offer even an incremental step forward on both, The Hill’s report makes it appear that they’re going to offer an extemporaneous form of legislating, a performance-art piece that has as much likelihood of passage as does a single-payer plan.
Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Josh Dawsey notes today that this offers a very troublesome portent for the governing ability within the GOP:
The Republican Party is more powerful than it’s been in more than a decade — and yet it has never seemed so weak.
Continuing chaos in the White House has been punctuated by the failure to deliver on the GOP’s seven-year pledge to overhaul Obamacare, and has many asking whether the party can capitalize on the sweeping victories it has achieved at the federal, state, and local levels. ….
“If this fails, it is a disaster for them. They will lose their moral authority to get anything done and lead. There will be a real breakdown of the Republican Senate,” said David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth.
White House officials and lawmakers alike worried that a setback on healthcare would snowball, making tax reform and an infrastructure bill more difficult. “The fear is that we look impotent, that it makes things harder for the debt ceiling, and that it makes tax reform harder,” said a senior administration official.
That’s also true of the ObamaCare repeal bill itself. The more this looks like a free-for-all, the more it saps the confidence of voters in Republican governance. One reason this bill polls so badly is that Republicans themselves keep undermining various components of it, which makes it easy for everyone else to dismiss.
If Republicans can’t get their act together tomorrow, voters might try some “random selection” of their own — random selection of politicians, since it doesn’t seem to matter much which party controls the levers of power. Nothing good gets done either way. “Stupid party,” indeed.
RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel gets to the heart of this issue. “It’s not just a question of whether we can repeal and replace Obamacare,” McDaniel says on Fox Business News. “It’s a question of can we govern when we’re given the majority. That’s what voters are going to be looking at this week.” Hopefully a few people on Capitol Hill are listening.