Friday, July 28, 2017

Assorted thoughts on the failure of "skinny repeal"

I have a lot of brief thoughts here, so rather than one big post, here's a bunch of little stuff.

1)  Skinny repeal failed.  The premise of skinny repeal was that the Senate should pass a horrendously stupid bill that nearly everyone knew was horrendously stupid (just ask Lindsey Graham!) so that the real bill would be written in the House-Senate conference committee.  There were 49 Republicans stupid and vile enough to vote for this proposal.  Only 3 were willing to vote against it, and 2 were no-votes all along anyway (Collins and Murkowski).  Yes, 49 out of 52 Republican Senators looked at this idea and said, "yeah, I'm cool with that."  49 out of 52.  Is it any wonder that this is the party that elected Donald Fucking Trump?

2)  I give John McCain a lot of shit.  He withstood five years of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, and didn't break, but since then, he's basically been all about posturing.  He was caught up in the Keating 5 scandal, and then decided that the best way to resuscitate his career would be to become Mr. Campaign Finance Reform to convince a bunch of simple-minded journalists that he is clean and honest and maverick-y.  Most of the time, though, he goes along with the party.  That's why I always remind everyone about his involvement in the Keating 5.  Oh, and you know who else was involved?  John Glenn!  Your heroes suck!

Anyway, McCain gave that speech about hating the process Republicans had used on healthcare reform, and then voted yes on the motion to proceed.  That's typical McCain.  He postures, and then goes along with the party.  Trump bashes him and every other POW, and he still kowtows to that piece of fucking shit.  That's McCain.  Until about 2:00 AM this morning.  He made a speech about process, and voted in accordance.  He lived up to his rhetoric.  Well, then.

3)  That vote really was about process.  McCain isn't a moderate.  Collins is.  On the -1 to +1 NOMINATE scale, she's about dead center at 0.  McCain is at around .4, making him roughly as conservative as Clinton is liberal.  He didn't vote to kill this thing because he opposed it.  He showed a shred of integrity, unlike the 49 Republican Senators who said, "oh, fuck it, we've had 7 years, but let's write the bill in conference, and I'll vote for this horrible, stupid bill that Paul Ryan might pass based on the hope that he won't 'cuz.... uh.... yeah."  Let's talk about the phrase, "regular order."  It doesn't mean that much.  There is a book by the late Barbara Sinclair called Unorthodox Lawmaking.  Congress, though, has deviated so much from the Schoolhouse Rock model that orthodox lawmaking doesn't mean anything anymore.  Send a bill to committee.  Hold hearings.  Mark up the bill.  Vote, report the bill out of committee, etc.  That kind of thing just doesn't happen anymore anyway.  It has become normal for the minority party to complain that the majority party doesn't use regular order because deviations from regular order usually deprive the minority party of power.  Then, when the tables are turned, the new majority doesn't use regular order either.  And, when the new majority is run by Mitch McConnell, the new majority finds the most egregious violations possible, and implements those because he's Mitch McConnell.  And then, when that party is in the minority, they find the most extreme obstructionist tactics possible and use those because, again, he's Mitch McConnell.  Regardless, the majority never seems to have much interest in implementing "regular order."  McCain just killed "skinny repeal" as a plea to use something like regular order.  He agrees with the policy goals, but says he wants to use regular order.  Wow.

4)  Then again, McCain probably understands that "regular order" won't work.  McConnell turned to "skinny repeal" as a desperation maneuver.  Everything McConnell has done has been based on the idea-- probably the correct idea-- that regular order would lead to failure.  No real replacement bill could survive an open legislative debate and amendment process.  If McCain actually understands this, then he's being disingenuous, and killing the legislation in a way that looks sanctimonious.  Is that what's really going on?  I... don't know.  It's hard to say with him.  I don't tend to give McCain the benefit of the doubt because he sooooo looooooves to posture.  But, Republicans can't pass anything through regular order, so telling the Senate that they have to work through regular order to get his vote is the same thing as saying that this is dead.  If McCain really understands that, then we have to interpret his actions differently.

5)  Why did the GOP use a process driven by such secrecy, ludicrous speed, recklessness, etc.?  I think it has to do with the lies they told about 2009 and 2010.  In 2009 and 2010, the Democrats went through a long and drawn out process with lots and lots of public hearings, debate, mark-up, amendments, etc.  However, Republicans decided to tell a lot of lies about Obamacare, and not just the "death panel" lie.  Among the lies they told was the story that it was written secretly, in the dead of night, never shown to anyone, and passed with undue haste.  They told the lie so often that they probably convinced themselves it was true.  If you tell a lie often enough, it is easier to believe the lie than to accept that you are lying all the time.  So, they decided that turnabout was fair play, and used what they believed, falsely, were the tactics Democrats used, because they lied so often about what Democrats did.  This is one of the many dangers of lying all the time.

5)  Will the Republicans keep trying?  Quite possibly.  Skinny repeal was so insane, and so stupid and such a sign of desperation that we must accept that the GOP is simply a group of people frothing at the mouths (hi Rick Santorum!) any time they hear the word, "Obamacare," that they are incapable of rational, long-term strategic planning here.  After all, 49 out of 52 were willing to vote in favor of a bill they knew was stupid beyond belief so that the real bill could be written in the House-Senate conference committee, even though the House might just pass the idiotic fucking bill!

And so, one more time...


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