This morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a floor speech hammering Bernie Sanders' single-payer scheme and again calling for a better way forward on healthcare -- which must include replacing the collapsing Obamacare status quo. As you watch this video, bear in mind that he gave these remarks while acutely aware of the fact that he once again lacks the votes within his own conference to advance the latest 'repeal and replace' legislation:
With the 'no' caucus up to at least four at this stage (McCain, Paul, Cruz, Collins), virtually nobody expects McConnell to intentionally recreate the embarrassing spectacle of calling a vote that his party is bound to lose. Some of his own members are openly predicting that Graham-Cassidy will die without getting an up-or-down verdict from the full Senate:
Just asked Sen. @lisamurkowski about how she will vote on Graham/Cassidy. Her response: "I don't believe we are going to have a vote."— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) September 26, 2017
So what are his options? First, we should keep an eye on the reconciliation deadline and various efforts to extend or reset the clock. Second, we should recognize the lamentable reality that anything even approaching a true Obamacare real has zero chance of passing -- even "skinny repeal" was too much for some Republicans. Third, we should ask if there is literally a single option left on the table that could garner 50 upper chamber yeas. Which brings me back to my thought experiment from yesterday: It's time to debate and vote on the Collins-Cassidy proposal. Susan Collins has been the most anti-repeal GOP Senator from word one, making whip count math very precarious on every idea that's been considered. If she could be brought into the fold by supporting her own bill, that could be a game-changer. On Fox this morning, I suggested that McConnell call her bluff and see if she'd be willing to actually vote for the plan she herself designed:
Granted, Collins-Cassidy is a far cry from what I'd like to see under ideal (or even not-terrible) circumstances. But we find ourselves in terrible circumstances, wherein one party is doggedly defending a deteriorating law that's harming millions (while looking ahead to even worse ideas), and the other party can't bring itself to follow through on their seven-year promise of uprooting it. Conservative writer and healthcare expert Phil Klein gave Collins-Cassidy an emphatic thumbs-down at the beginning of this year's "repeal and replace" debate:
The Cassidy-Collins bill has been pitched as a bipartisan compromise that would give states the option of sticking with Obamacare or trying out a free market alternative. In practice, though, the bill wouldn't provide a legitimate choice...Taken together, the Cassidy-Collins bill would leave residents in many states trapped in Obamacare, which all states would still be forced to pay for — and their only alternative is to adopt a system while still under onerous rules imposed from Washington. It's true that relative to Obamacare, Cassidy-Collins would move more regulation to the states, and provide new options. But it doesn't go nearly far enough, and it occupies a dangerous middle ground.
I'd submit that we're now at a point where a "dangerous middle ground" is the best option left, compared to watching Obamacare lurch toward failure, or bailing it out in exchange for paltry Democratic concessions. Do 50 Republican Senators agree?