The first clue was Mike Lee still being on the fence. The second clue was John McCain’s surgery becoming an excuse to delay the vote.
And now, a story out of Wisconsin pretty much confirms what has been the fear/hope of folks across the nation:
[Wisconsin Senator Ron] Johnson said Friday in Green Bay that a reported comment by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that Medicaid reform will probably never happen under the plan, is a “breach of trust.”
Johnson did not say he would vote against the bill, but he has moved from strongly favoring a procedural motion to get the bill on the Senate floor for debate to being undecided.
“I am concerned about Leader McConnell’s comments to apparently some of my Republican colleagues — ‘Don’t worry about some of the Medicaid reforms, those are scheduled so far in the future they’ll never take effect,'” he said. “I’ve got to confirm those comments … I think those comments are going to really put the motion to proceed in jeopardy, whether it’s on my part or others.”
So, at the current count, that’s 46-50. McCain isn’t available to vote, Susan Collins and Rand Paul won’t vote for it, and Mike Lee and Ron Johnson are on the fence.
That is far less than ideal for McConnell, who was hopeful about getting this done quickly. As time goes on, more and more Republicans are on the fence about the bill itself, and it’s not just a conservative issue. Conservatives aren’t happy with the broken promises the bill represents, and moderate Republicans aren’t thrilled with the reforms to Medicaid and other entitlements the bill would bring.
The result is an ugly monster of bad ideas. Even the Cruz-Lee amendment ended up so watered down that it very well could make the situation worse, not better.
This will not be something as simple as “the conservatives screwed this up for us,” either. The big issue here is that the entire Republican spectrum, from conservative to liberal-moderate, has problems with it, and to get the bill to a floor vote at all would have taken a lot of nose-holding. The amount of amending that would then have to take place is not only immeasurable, it’s the only way the bill could get worse.
Republicans ran on a promise, as Rand Paul has said repeatedly: to repeal and replace. This bill, and the House’s bill, did not do that, and if their very first chance to get rid of Obamacare was this bill, I shudder to think what going back to the drawing board is going to look like.
Conservatives and Republicans alike for years said they had a plan to replace Obamacare once they repealed it, despite what Democrats said. What they’ve been doing since they took up health care under Trump is proof the Democrats were right. It’s a slap in the face to voters who put these very Republicans – including Trump – in power.
This moment is McConnell’s best chance to take the bill off the table and do some work. It’s going to involve meetings with every Republican, not just leadership and its lackeys, to come up with an idea that is palatable for 51 people.
To do otherwise just invites more embarrassment to Republicans in Congress.