It should be an interesting July 4 for Republicans
By John Micek
Senate Republicans better get ready for some fireworks. Their July 4 recess is going to be a hot one.
Earlier this week, with Republican ranks deeply fractured, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, announced he was postponing a critical, make-or-break procedural vote on a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, until after a weeklong holiday break.
The not-entirely-unsurprising announcement is a virtual guarantee that GOP senators will be deluged by lobbyists and constituents on both sides of the issue at a time most of them would rather be marching in home state parades or crashing barbecues.
The Kentucky Republican needed 50 votes to approve a measure allowing debate to proceed on the Obamacare replacement bill, which would result in 22 million more Americans losing their insurance over the next decade, even as it drove up out-of-pocket expenses.
The analysis by the independent Congressional Budget Office also concluded that the GOP bill would reduce federal spending by $321 billion during the same time period.
But in a perfect storm of awful, McConnell couldn’t muster the support. As was the case in the House, conservatives complained that the bill didn’t go far enough.
For example, they demanded that states be allowed to waive the existing law’s prohibition against insurance companies charging sick people higher prices for coverage, The New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, GOP senators from states that embraced the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare worried about the bill’s impact on home state beneficiaries of that expansion.
One of the exceptions, in that case, was U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, who spent the weekend trying to minimize the impact of the Medicaid rollback in the Senate Republican bill.
The CBO analysis knocked the legs out from under that argument on Monday.
McConnell’s action was also an embarrassing setback for the Trump White House, which, while it may be basking in special election victories, is still zero-for-life in serious legislative accomplishments.
So, you’d expect that faced with the seeming collapse of his domestic agenda, President Donald Trump would be appealing for comity and cooperation from his fractious party.
Trump has spent most of his time on Twitter flipping out on CNN after three staffers resigned, and the network retracted, a story about a Trump fundraiser’s alleged Russia connection.
“So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? ” Trump harrumphed. “What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”
The delay, of course, cuts both ways.
On the one hand, it gives McConnell time to sway skeptics to his side.
On the other, the longer this vote gets delayed, the more likely it is that other Republicans will find a reason to peel off and join Team No.
But, as The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points out, the House got to “yes” back in May by wooing more conservatives to its cause. And there, they control 55.4 percent of the chamber.
Republicans in the Senate, conversely, control a little bit more than 52 percent. And divisions are such that moving the bill, either way, is going to be very difficult.
Get ready for the fireworks.
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.