Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A delayed vote on healthcare means...

... absolutely nothing.  (Which is what you are about to become.  Sorry, couldn't resist).

Look, this accelerated timeline for a healthcare vote was absurdly stupid and impractical.  Legislative negotiation on anything this complex takes time, and the idea of rushing the process is... well... didn't we see how that worked in the House?  And the House is where party leaders have actual power.

So, the fact that McConnell couldn't pull it off on the insanely accelerated timeline originally planned says nothing about whether or not the GOP will be able to pull it off eventually.

What it means is what we already knew-- they don't have it worked out yet.  (Is that the same thing as meaning nothing?  Probably not, but I really wanted to use that Spaceballs reference.)  As I said yesterday morning, they are still messing with the lapsed coverage provision, which the Senate parliamentarian could axe, and nobody knows what's going on with Heller.  The drama club (Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Ron Johnson) is doing what the drama club does-- putting on theater.  That theater consists of pretending that they hate the first offer, but we can ignore that since it is just spectacle for the rubes.  But, until the stuff with Heller, the lapsed coverage provision, and other issues are addressed, McConnell is stuck.

He is, though, in the same position as Harry Reid in 2010.  Harry Reid had 60 Democrats (but only really for a few months...*), and needed to keep all 60, so he gave everyone exactly what they wanted.  McConnell has 52, but 2 are lost causes:  Collins and Murkowski.  There is probably no way to keep them on board, and the House Freedom Caucus at the same time.  So, he's basically at 50, and he needs 50.  It's a brutal process, and it may not be possible.  However, the difficulty of the task means that we shouldn't mark him down for the fact that it is taking time.

Do we factor in the observation that McConnell planned an early vote?  Eh...  It was aspirational.  Delay costs him nothing.  Had he held a vote and lost on the motion to proceed, then I'd say he doesn't know what the fuck he's doing, but as is?  Don't read anything into the delay.

Current rough Bayesian assessment of Republicans' eventual chances?  Somewhere in the 40% range.  They are below 50% with Heller objecting from the left, and I have a really hard time seeing how the parliamentarian goes along with the current proposal on lapsed coverage, but the fact that they are trying this hard suggests to me that even if the current proposal doesn't pass, someone will try to blackmail Heller with something.  I don't know... kidnap his family, or something.  I'm being semi-facetious here (hi, FBI!  It's a joke!  Me, a jokester!), but I can pretty much guarantee you that Heller is receiving death threats from all sorts of cranks right now, and national Republican leaders just had to ask an independent conservative group to pull anti-Heller ads from Nevada to try to manage the pressure because figuring out the proper balance of hard and soft pressure is difficult.  Basic lesson about politics, though:  a committed minority will generally defeat an apathetic majority, and the GOP is very committed.  Don't discount the power of that commitment.  Yes, the mechanics are against the Republicans here, but it doesn't look like they are going to give up.

*Historical side note:  the 2008 election only gave the Democrats 59 seats, but initially, they had 58 seated because incumbent Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota refused to concede to Al Franken for a loooooooong time.  Even after Franken was seated, though, that only brought the Democrats to 59.  It wasn't until turncoat Arlen Specter switched parties that the Dems went up to 60.  Specter blatantly admitted that he was terrified of a rematch against Pat Toomey in a GOP primary in 2010 (he only narrowly beat Toomey in 2004, and he read the tea leaves, so to speak), so he switched (and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak, who lost the general election to Pat Toomey).  That got the Dems up to 60, but then murder-a-girl-in-a-drunk-driving-accident-and-get-away-with-it-guy, Ted Kennedy died, and Scott Brown won the special election to replace him, bringing the Dems back down to 59, so the Democrats didn't have 60 for all that long.  Anyway, worth remembering that Democrats didn't really have all that long to control everything.


  1. It's debatable that they didn't even have 60 for that long, since Kennedy was really ill, and you can only wheel his death bed into the chamber so many times.

    1. I suppose they could have just kept his hospital bed on the Senate floor and switched his morphine drip button or "call nurse" button for the "yes" button on roll calls...