In an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he doesn’t see much hope for the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“My view is that it’s probably going to be dead,” he said.
McCain is now pushing for his party to start negotiating with the Democrats to come up with a piece of legislation that will satisfy politicians on both sides of the aisle. In other words, he thinks that it’s the conservatives in the House and Senate who are preventing a clean healthcare bill from getting to the president’s desk.
Regardless of whose to blame, it’s increasingly obvious that Republicans don’t plan to spend the rest of the year on healthcare reform. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already told his party colleagues that they had until July 4 to come up with a compromise that could be put to a floor vote. That deadline came and went, but eventually McConnell – and perhaps even Trump – is going to run out of patience. The GOP is itching to get past healthcare and on to tax reform, and it would be quite surprising to see the Obamacare debate still dogging Congress in the fall.
It’s quite clear that they can’t do both. To avoid needing Democrat votes, the party is relying on reconciliation to pass both healthcare and tax reform. But you can only use reconciliation on one thing at a time, so it’s important for Republicans to get healthcare off the floor. The only alternative is to negotiate with Democrats on taxes – which is probably a non-starter – or to go McCain’s route and compromise with them on healthcare. And since conservative critics are already outraged at the bill they’re trying to pass off as an Obamacare “repeal,” the party would have to be nuts to go along with whatever sort of Obamacare Frankenstein the Democrats would be happy with.
Alas, the options are growing very, very limited. Change the bill so that it satisfies Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee, and you’ll lose Susan Collins and other moderate Republicans. And if McConnell hasn’t found enough money in the budget to bribe these Senators on board by now, it’s not clear how he’s going to do it before the summer is out. The only thing that stands a chance of working is grassroots political pressure, and Republicans have totally lost all control of the narrative on the ground. Democrats have gained the upper hand when it comes to healthcare outrage, having apparently learned quite a lot from the days when the GOP was taking shots at Obamacare from the bleachers.
What else is on the table? Straight repeal won’t work, because it would require Democrat votes. And, well, that’s about all there is to work with.
It seems utterly unbelievable that Republicans did not have a coherent strategy to repeal and replace Obamacare after six years of political moaning, but there’s no other conclusion to draw. They are Wile E. Coyote, having caught the Roadrunner, and now having no clue what to do with him.
If voters are outraged, you can hardly blame them.