Was Senator John McCain really ready to hop on a plane and return to Washington so soon after his cancer diagnosis and the beginning of his treatments for it? Apparently the answer was yes because he’s back in town, riding to the rescue of whatever the heck it is that Mitch McConnell wants everyone to vote on. (The first vote is only a procedural motion to move forward with debate, by the way. It’s not passing any legislation out of the House.) And as NBC News reported early this morning, McCain will be there to get them to fifty if need be.
With a razor-thin margin for success in the balance, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — recently diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor — will return to Washington Tuesday to take a critical vote on health care.
“Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue to working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea,” McCain’s office said in a statement Monday.
McCain’s return would give Republicans a crucial vote in support of the motion to proceed to begin debate on health care legislation.
The President was up early and tweeting away, cheering McCain’s return.
So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave – American hero! Thank you John.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
So I guess the whole, “I like people that weren’t captured” thing is off the table now. Of course, to be fair, the President said “American hero” here, not “war hero.” Still, I noticed that Jake Tapper jumped all over it.
Still never apologized for saying: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured." https://t.co/4jR9GpKGWd
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) July 25, 2017
So the basic Senate math would tell us that the driving reason for McCain’s return is just to get the GOP to fifty on not only health care, but probably some other tough votes as well. But is there more to it? Allahpundit wondered if Mitch McConnell was hoping for a “Willis Reed” effect from McCain’s appearance. That’s possible I suppose. It sort of summons up images of Gabby Giffords. We’re only one week out from the sixth anniversary of when she made her way back to the House floor for a vote on the debt limit following the shooting which nearly killed her and you’ll recall all of the applause she received. I don’t know of McCain’s colleagues will be quite so generous with their support, but we should see at least some of the same emotions on display.
Does this mean that the GOP gets to pass something on health care? Who knows? For that matter, we still don’t know for sure what they’ll be debating if the vote goes through. And just because there’s enough votes to hold the debate, that doesn’t mean that the actual bill makes it through even with McCain there.
Rand Paul was on Fox News this morning saying that’s he’s still unhappy. He’s offered a couple of amendments, including one which would allow cross-state competition on a national level through consumer associations, and he’s received “zero, zip” response from the leadership. He still sounds like he’s willing to vote on the motion to proceed to debate, but calling for assurances that he will at least have the chance to vote on a clean repeal bill. (Not that it will pass, mind you. Just the chance to vote on it.) And his amendment hasn’t been scored by the CBO so it will need 60 votes to be attached. In other words, there’s zero chance of that.
So will we at least get the vote that Paul is hoping for on the clean repeal? That’s not a crazy idea. It’s not going to pass, obviously (thanks, Susan Collins!), but it at least gives conservatives the chance to put everyone on the record as to how they voted after seven years of promises. The other bit of beltway drama to watch for is how John McCain votes on the clean repeal measure if it takes place. He might go from being a hero to a goat in nearly record time, even for this town.