Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On not being the one to kill repeal-and-replace

I suspect I'll keep writing about how Republicans failed, again, with "repeal-and-replace," so I will try to keep this post relatively focused.

Susan Collins and Rand Paul announced their immediate opposition to McConnell's bill, leaving no more room for no-votes.  Once Rand Paul's fellow drama-clubber, Mike Lee, and Jerry Moran announced their opposition, that was it.  I'll take a little bit of credit for my line in that post about how the other members of the drama club would want to "get in on that sweet posturing action" with Rand Paul.  Lee, who co-authored the plan with Cruz, jumped ship, and Ron Johnson, the fourth member of the drama club, was openly musing about leaving Cruz as the only drama club member supporting the bill.  The thing is, Lee couldn't do it alone.  He needed someone to take the plunge with him.  A buddy-system, if you will...

He found Jerry Moran.  Apparently Johnson was still on the fence.  That buddy-system was important.  Why?  Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky.  You don't remember her.  Anyone in Congress does, or at least, they know the tale.  Back in 1993, she cast the "pivotal" vote for Clinton's 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (the Clinton tax increases).  It was an unpopular bill, and she had promised to vote no, but with a lot of party pressure, she changed her mind.  As she cast her vote, there were taunts and chants on the House floor.  Then, she lost her first and only re-election campaign in the 1994 Republican wave.  Being pivotal can suck.  Lee didn't want to be pivotal.  He didn't want to support the bill because he's a drama clubber.  He saw it going down, and there's no percentage in supporting a losing bill, particularly when your political identity is wrapped up in a combination of ideological extremism and opposing your party leadership/establishment.  But, he didn't want to be the pivotal voter.

Now, he wouldn't have been pivotal.  That was a difference.  Mezvinsky was the last vote in '93, and nobody has voted yet.  Once Lee announced his opposition, others would have followed.  But, Lee would have been remembered as the guy who killed the Republicans' goal of repealing Obamacare, and he didn't want that on him.  He needed cover.  He needed a buddy.  He needed... Jerry Moran.  If two did it at once, then neither one of them did it alone.  Instead, they simultaneously demonstrated that McConnell had failed.  See?  If one guy says no, that guy killed the Republican dream, but if two do it, then McConnell didn't get it done.  That's the difference.  It is about shifting responsibility.

In game theory, this is about the difference between sequential moves and simultaneous moves.  "Responsibility" is attributed more to the first person to cross the threshold of the 51st announcement of an intended no vote, even if there would wind up being more.  Is that, in some moral/ethical/whatever sense, right?  Doesn't matter.  It is probably an accurate assessment of how many people react, and Lee had to plan accordingly.  So, he did.  This would have been different if everything had been done on a simultaneous ballot.  Sequence wouldn't have mattered.  What would have happened?  Harder question...  Regardless, Lee used the buddy system to protect himself from the charge that he is the guy who killed the Republican dream.  He didn't.  Without Moran, he would have been accused of it, even though he would have been no more responsible for it than, say, Collins, though.  Funny how that works.

A lot more to come, because there is so much more to unpack here.  But, I'll leave you today with one more thought.  I'm not 100% convinced that the GOP is done stepping on the healthcare rake...

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