When I wrote this analysis earlier, 'Plan B' was already on life support. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Shelley Moore Capito had signaled that they were no-go's on the GOP backup proposal, which would entail passing the same "clean" repeal bill approved by the upper chamber in late 2015. That was a show vote, I explained, and everybody knew it -- and if Senate Republicans were sweating a vote on a conservative-ish replacement/fix bill this week (replete with generous subsidies and gradual fade-outs), the notion that they'd fall in line behind much harsher and riskier plan was obviously risible on its face. With Rob Portman and Dean Heller pronouncing themselves 'troubled' and expressing telltale 'concerns,' it was only a matter of time before a back-breaking third "no" vote emerged, dooming the maneuver. My bet was on Heller, but Lisa Murkowski was always going to be a strong contender, too. Ta da:
Lisa Murkowski just told me she'll vote with Democrats to block McConnell's repeal only health bill. That kills it— Laura Litvan (@LauraLitvan) July 18, 2017
That's three, with more to come. Goodnight. Now it's time for the ritual circular firing squad. Conservatives will rage at those Senators who are fleeing their own consequence-free 2015 vote, moderates will blame conservatives for tanking the previous bill (although centrists had a major role in that, too), with various factions fuming at leadership for steering events to an unhappy outcome for everyone. The breadth of this failure is truly impressive, even by GOP standards. We've already reviewed what comes next, and those pieces are already being set into motion. The president has declared that he'll now let Obamacare fail, and blame the Democrats. The other party is solely responsible for designing the disintegrating status quo, but Republicans now control everything. Whiffing on a pressing policy concern and a perennial campaign promise won't go unnoticed by voters. Washing their hands of the situation isn't going to cut it for Republicans, and the assignment of blame isn't going to go the way Trump wants it to. Meanwhile, are Senators going to just mosey along having taken zero votes on this issue, even after all those years of rhetoric? Apparently, McConnell isn't planning on letting them off the hook that easily. Despite the inevitable political pain and recriminations, leadership is reportedly intent on holding a 'motion to proceed' vote on the 2015 repeal bill, forcing every Senator onto the record:
Sources say McConnell intent to hold vote to proceed on straight repeal, even if it fails— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) July 18, 2017
This will result in a decent number of GOP members (a dozen? more?) refusing to allow a piece of legislation onto the floor that they voted to pass not too long ago. What's McConnell's angle here? Is he (a) using this threat as leverage to try to get people back to the negotiating table to revive the compromise bill? That may move some moderates, but guys like Lee and Paul are eager to cast another "clean" repeal vote that won't go anywhere. Is there really anything that can be attempted here that hasn't already been tried? Or maybe (b) McConnell is fed up with his recalcitrant conference and wants to subject his members to tough votes, out of frustration. If that's the case, isn't he putting some Senators in the line of fire for avoidable blowback? That seems very out of character for him. And if the goal is to showcase dysfunction, why not "spread the pain around," and hold a vote on the motion to proceed to the recently-defunct Senate bill, too? Leadership could then compare and contrast the totals to show which option is closer to being a reality, perhaps as a means of applying pressure to certain members. Or perhaps (c) he wants to have a roll call vote conclusively proving that due to infighting and disagreement, Republican-only solutions are dead in the water, hence the self-inflicted need for bipartisanship. For reasons that we outlined earlier, conservatives aren't likely to be at all pleased with whatever might emerge from that process. I'll leave you with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, whose potential 2018 challengers are lining up, jumping into the fray to help jumpstart new talks:
Scoop: Manchin starting bipartisan health care talks with former governors turned senators https://t.co/GmnaEaGu7n— Sam Stein (@samstein) July 18, 2017
But don't lose sight of the anti-conservative demands from even the most "moderate" of Democrats as a precondition simply to sit down at the table. It's going to be bad, folks.