Since the healthcare debate got underway, the Republican-controlled Senate has had a fundamental problem: It had no bill it could pass. We’re not talking about meeting the 60-vote threshold; they had not been able find 50 votes (plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaker) for any version of repeal and replace. So they hit upon the idea of passing an atrocious bill that would repeal the individual mandate, dumps 15 million people off healthcare insurance and raises premiums 20 percent. Then the kicker, as The Post reported Thursday:
In other words, millions more people wouldn’t have insurance, and it’d be more expensive for everybody else. It’s no wonder, then, that even the Republicans who are voting for this bill don’t want it to become law. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called it a “disaster” and a “fraud.” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said “the only possible problem” with it is that the House might vote for it too. And Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) wants a guarantee that the House won’t turn around and pass it.
Three senators actually held a press conference to say they’d vote for it — but only if they got an ironclad guarantee the House wouldn’t pass it. That’s right: They would only pass something they hate in order to kick the can down the road, with no prospect they can find a bill satisfactory to enough Senate Republicans. Really, gentleman, that’s your idea of responsible governance? Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) smartly characterized the goings on as “weapons grade bonkers.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan tried to accommodate them, but had to hedge. “If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do,” he said in a written statement. “The House remains committed to finding a solution and working with our Senate colleagues, but the burden remains on the Senate to demonstrate that it is capable of passing something that keeps our promise.” Whatever that meant, a final (we think) vote on the skinny repeal took place in the wee hours of the night on Friday.
In the end, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — in a sort of Hollywood ending — voted no along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill died, and with it perhaps, finally, the quixotic vote to end Obamacare.
And what was the excuse for the rest of the Senate? They all had the power to stop a bill many openly trashed as a joke and conceded would do great damage. Nevertheless, all hoped someone else would do the dirty work of derailing it. I’m hard-pressed to think of another instance in which virtually all senators of one party (save three) declared their inability to make a critically important decision. It’s junk but send it to conference where someone else can make the tough calls. So why are they there? The ambitious GOP senators who hid from their responsibilities have no business being in the United States Senate, let alone seeking higher office.
After 7 years of protest and 7 months of legislative paralysis, Republicans have not figured out what to do about Obamacare, but they cannot admit their failure and refuse to take their medicine in the form of the base’s wrath. It took three brave souls, one in the twilight of his career, to finally put their constituents and the country above partisan hackery.