In yesterday's post, I gave the following basic pieces of advice on how to interpret what would happen when the Senate released its long-awaited Obamacare "replacement" plan. First, the GOP should be able to get 50 votes for something, although not necessarily for the same thing as the House. Second, watch the parliamentarian, who determines whether or not the various provisions are actually budgetary, and therefore immune to the filibuster as part of a "budget reconciliation" bill under the Byrd Rule.
On the vote-counting issue, several conservative Senators announced that they aren't happy. Ignore them. I told you yesterday that the Senate should be able to get 50 votes for something, throwing Collins and Murkowski overboard. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson have said that they need more concessions. I warned you about bluster yesterday, and their bleating is exactly what I meant. The far right needs to pretend that the first offer is unacceptable because otherwise, they're cuckservatives. Remember what happened in the House? The Freedom Caucus needed to force Paul Ryan to scrap the first version and give them more. That's the same book we've read over, and over again, where the right flank forced the leadership to give up on the first plan, and give them concessions because the act of forcing the leadership to give them something is like the act of my arrogant, little asshole cats trying to get me to follow them around the room instead of just sitting still while they get pet. Little, fucking assholes...
Anyway, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson just need to get something more in order to pretend they aren't cuckservatives, and then they'll vote yes. Rob Portman and Shelley Moore Capito have already caved completely like unregulated coal mines. (I haven't seen much from Cory Gardner, who also signed the letter with Portman, Capito and Murkowski, but I'll assume he died like the canary, and someone will cast a yes vote for him by proxy). Bill Cassidy? Once he stopped talking to Susan Collins, that's all that mattered. He's a yes.
Everything left is just sturm und drang, unless McConnell is an idiot, and he's not an idiot. McConnell is the only Republican Party leader left with a real strategic brain.
Well, almost everything is sturm und drang. The other thing I told you to watch was the parliamentarian. The Senate is trying to finesse the Byrd Rule by messing with the "essential health benefits" portion of Obamacare in a way similar to the House bill. States will be able to "opt-out," basically if they have budgetary reasons. Yeah, it's more complicated, but I'm doing a quick summary because if you are reading this, you are reading it for politics and strategy, not policy-nitty-gritty-details. It is kind of a rhetorical gimmick, but it could work. Again, though, this will be in the hands of the parliamentarian.
Now... if McConnell were very, very smart, he would have done his homework and tried to figure out in advance what he could get away with doing here. There isn't exactly a formal "pre-clearance" process, but McConnell can think through what is likely to pass muster, and he could always ask the parliamentarian...
Don't count on the parliamentarian blocking this. I call this a bullshit gimmick, but it ain't my job, and I'm less tolerant of bullshit than others.
What does this mean? It means that I have to update my predictions about what happens. Right now, the odds of something passing? At least a coin toss.