How lit has today become? This showdown vote on a motion to proceed to debate on the ObamaCare repeal bill may fall well short of the most dramatic event of the day. Anthony Scaramucci may clear out the whole West Wing, and Donald Trump might fire Jeff Sessions as the apprentice Attorney General at any moment. In fact, Trump’s currently at a rally of the faithful in Youngstown, Ohio. News outlets might cut away at any moment if Trump fires him from the dais … of which there is a distinctly nonzero chance today.
Mitch McConnell may only get B-roll coverage on his effort to pin down his caucus on ObamaCare repeal:
We can do better than #Obamacare, & we have a responsibility to try. Today’s vote to begin debate is the first step. We should take it.
— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) July 25, 2017
So far, it’s not entirely clear that McConnell can get to 50. Rand Paul’s surprise assent certainly boosts the odds, as does John McCain’s heroic appearance days after brain surgery. However, Susan Collins has announced that she won’t go along with anything Paul likes, not even to debate it:
Senator Collins says she is a no vote on the motion to proceed to health bill if it includes straight repeal, which it will need to for Rand
— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) July 25, 2017
As for the rest of the undeclareds, they spent the afternoon chewing on it … literally:
Heading into lunch a lot of undecideds, including Portman, Murkowski, Capito, Flake, Lee. The vote is in just over an hour
— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) July 25, 2017
Dean Heller turned into a yes on the MTP, as did Rob Portman, which is also a big deal for McConnell. Does he have time to flip enough to get to 50? Politico reports that the vote will take place as soon as 2:30 ET, but these things usually don’t fire off on time. No one’s sure on a whip count, so count on being surprised. Either McConnell will recover his reputation as a strategic genius, or … maybe it’s time for the caucus to look elsewhere. And maybe McConnell won’t mind handing off the reins if the collected Republicans in his caucus can’t agree to fulfill a seven-year promise.
I’ll be on the air when the vote comes down, so be sure to tune into today’s Ed Morrissey Show.
Meanwhile, don’t count out Democrats in their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The whole ObamaCare repeal story arc has been both embarrassing and strange, but this is equally curious. Senate Democrats have insisted for weeks that they have not obstructed Donald Trump’s appointments, but that the delays have resulted from a slow White House and a lack of cooperation by the nominees. Now, suddenly, Dick Durbin has offered to end the slowdown on confirmations if Republicans ditch the ObamaCare repeal effort:
In recent weeks, the Senate has slowed to a crawl, taking days to process nominees such as a federal judge from Idaho and the second-ranking official at the Pentagon as a protest of sorts against the Republicans’ secretive health care drafting process. The GOP also claims that Democrats aren’t negotiating on a budget deal, veterans’ legislation and Food and Drug Administration fees until the Obamacare debate is over.
But Democrats plan to work with Republicans for a deal on the dozens of nominations lingering on the floor once the GOP’s partisan health push ends, according to Democratic senators and aides.
“Mitch McConnell put reconciliation on the table hours after the session started and it has really tainted all of our efforts,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in an interview. “When he is prepared to return to regular order, I think we are going to have a much more cooperative Senate.”
Sooooooo …. Democrats now admit they have been obstructing Trump’s nominees. Not that it was a great mystery, of course, but there were no end of Democrats appearing on media outlets insisting that Trump was the problem. I wonder how many of those media outlets will correct the record after this offer. Don’t bet on anything above, oh …. zero.
And why did Durbin concede that now? To get leverage over the GOP on ObamaCare? Senate Republicans are busy enough fouling up that effort on their own. The odds are already stacked against any form of repeal getting the necessary 50 votes for passage, even assuming McConnell can get to 50 for today’s MTP vote. Why bother to offer this up as a bargain now? And why tie it to regular order? Once ObamaCare repeal either passes or fails, and tax reform finally gets done, Republicans will have to return to regular order anyway.
It’s as if no one can do the fandango in Washington DC these days. Sheesh.
Update: Getting closer …
My statement on motion to proceed: pic.twitter.com/j7sdmIW79L
— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) July 25, 2017
Update: Almost there …
— Bryan Lowry (@BryanLowry3) July 25, 2017
Update: And then there was one — and it’s not good news for McConnell:
With Murkowski and Collins voting no, Johnson could be one to decide whether they proceed to debate. https://t.co/FyjK86hXlP
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) July 25, 2017
There’s some history there, but … would Johnson want to be the man who didn’t even let Republicans debate ObamaCare on the Senate floor? Hmmmm.
Update: John McCain got a standing ovation as he returned to the floor to vote for the MTP. Johnson followed him and got the motion to 50 votes. All that remains is to get Mike Pence there for the deciding vote. Democrats had waited to vote until Republicans scored the 50th vote.
Update: Pence gets the MTP over the finish line. And now … McConnell better pull another rabbit out of his hat.