Paul: I'll vote to proceed on ObamaCare repeal

Can the Magical Mystery ObamaCare Repeal Bill get past a motion to proceed today on the Senate floor? Mitch McConnell got a boost for his showdown attempt from a surprising source late this morning. Rand Paul says he’ll vote yes on the MTP as long as the 2015 repeal bill comes up first — but does not pledge to support whatever form emerges from the debate that follows:

Please note the qualifies on the last tweet — “If that’s the plan…” The Senate is just a few hours from taking the vote on a motion to proceed on a bill, and members still don’t know what it contains. I’m so old that I remember when “you have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it” was a criticism on the Right rather than a strategy. What’s the plan for the MTP — a red rose delivered to whichever Senator gets their version of ObamaCare repeal in the legislation that’s coming up for the vote?

That’s not to dismiss the significance of Paul’s decision, however. Most calculations on the MTP have put Paul in the ‘nay’ column, which meant that McConnell could only lose one more Republican. It’s why John McCain risked his health to come back to DC for these votes. Paul’s flip allows McConnell more breathing room, even if Paul will almost certainly vote against any final version that could possibly get 50 votes. Just to keep score, here’s where McConnell stood before Paul’s tweetstorm:

With Paul saying yes, it also puts more pressure on Lee, Moran, and maybe Portman to come along. Otherwise they run the risk of seeming more extreme-libertarian than Paul, which is somewhat akin to being more Catholic than the Pope. (Let’s not get into that here, please.) The promise of debating more generous Medicaid subsidies and other pet amendments should get the rest of the caucus on board, except perhaps Susan Collins, but McConnell can afford to lose her now. And maybe if McConnell gives her the opportunity to strip Planned Parenthood defunding via amendment, Collins might even come around.

What exactly will be the bill’s final form, assuming a Senate debate takes place? NBC bets on a “skinny repeal” that can pass muster for reconciliation:

The first key vote will take place at some point this afternoon to open debate on the health care measure. If that “motion to proceed” passes, the Senate will then move on to debate and vote on a variety of approaches to the bill, beginning with a vote on the 2015 version of the repeal of Obamacare, according to two Senate sources. That vote is expected to fail.

After that, the Senate will move on to a vote on the current replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, with the addition of an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that allows the sale of catastrophic plans and an amendment by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that would add $100 billion in additional spending on Medicaid.

But the BCRA amendment is likely to need 60 votes because neither the Cruz nor the Portman amendment have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, meaning it’s likely to fail because it would need Democratic votes.

The plan after those two votes, according to sources, is for senators to proceed to votes on a series of amendments to create what leadership has called a “skinny” repeal with the goal of eliminating Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty, employer mandate penalty and the tax on medical devices.

That’s sort of a minimalist consensus on what ObamaCare repeal has to include, which might just find its way to 50 votes. Mike Pence would then get called to cast the final vote to repeal ObamaCare, and send the plan to the House, which would be smart to approve it quickly rather than let it sit around long enough to get picked apart.

That’s the plan, anyway. Will it work? Never, says … John Boehner:

Former House speaker John A. Boehner, who has mostly avoided public commentary since leaving Congress two years ago, told a business gathering last week that Republicans are “not going to repeal and replace Obamacare” because “the American people have gotten accustomed to it.”

“Here we are, seven months into this year, and yet they’ve not passed this bill. Now, they’re never — they’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Boehner told a private crowd in Las Vegas, according to video footage obtained by The Washington Post. “It’s been around too long. And the American people have gotten accustomed to it. Governors have gotten accustomed to this Medicaid expansion, and so trying to pull it back is really not going to work.”

Boehner said the Republicans’ best hope in the coming months is to peel away aspects of the law, such as some tax provisions and regulations, and to end health insurance mandates.

Have fun storming the castle!

Here’s a final thought: why aren’t Democrats voting in favor of the MTP? If this is soooooo awful, isn’t it better for Democrats to prolong Republican infighting over it?