As I wrote yesterday, I was caught off-guard by the fact that McConnell really is pushing "skinny repeal"-- a plan that is both capable of passing, and beyond stupid. I thought I would just point out the stupidity trap itself here today.
One of three things is the case, if the Senate actually goes through with "skinny repeal." Either a) this just sends everything to conference, and we have no idea what comes out of the House-Senate conference committee, b) the House, including the House Freedom Caucus, goes along with "skinny repeal," or c) the House and Senate remain at an impasse because the conference committee can't put together something that both chambers will accept. Let's go through them.
a) This is the phenomenal thing. McConnell is saying, flat-out, that he is lying to everyone. He is actually telling everyone that, if they vote for "skinny repeal," that's not what they are actually going to get. The bill will just go to conference. Here's the thing about "bait-and-switch." It isn't supposed to work when the con artist tells you that he's doing it. If someone tells you that he is pulling a bait-and-switch on you, and you still go along with it, you don't deserve to have your money. McConnell is telling the Senate that he is pulling a bait-and-switch. And it might work. These people are too stupid for words. Yes, they might fall for it. I hate stupid people.
Now, you may be asking yourself, "didn't these people just reject every 'repeal-and-replace' plan imaginable? Wouldn't any switch be voted down?" Well, let me remind you of a little joke that I'm sure you have heard, but that people don't like to tell anymore because it is kind of politically incorrect. So, you know, like, trigger-warning, or something.* A well-dressed, clean-cut man walks into a bar with a briefcase full of cash. He walks up to a woman having a drink, opens the brief case, and says, "would you have sex with me for $10 million?" The woman, startled, thinks about her bills, credit card debt, student loan debt, etc., and agrees. The man then gets a phone call and says, "I'm sorry, but that was my accountant, and the $10 million is off. How about $50?" Horrified, the woman says, "NO! What kind of a woman do you think I am?!" The man responds, "we've already established that. We're just haggling about the price."
50 Senators have already voted yes on the motion to proceed, including that hypocritical, sanctimonious grandstanding member of the Keating 5, John McCain (who really doesn't want anyone to remember the Keating 5!). If at least 50 vote for skinny repeal too, then whatever switch McConnell pulls, he will have established what kind of Senators they are, Heller and Capito included (thank you, Dean, for saving me from some really uncomfortable politics there...).
b) Maybe "skinny repeal" really happens. In that case, we know what happens. The health insurance death spiral, or at least spiking premiums combined with more and more counties facing no insurers in the individual markets. Now, some Members of Congress are too fucking stupid to understand this. Most of them are in the House. See: Gohmert, Louie. Grassley? He fuckin' knows. Passing a bill that they know will seriously risk a death spiral? This is smart, how? In yesterday's post, I gave a Rube Goldberg-scheme of a way that this leads to full repeal, but this isn't a plan. This is flailing.
c) Best case scenario, this just leads nowhere. So, the only way this turns out non-disastrously for the Senators who vote for "skinny repeal" is if negotiations between the House and Senate collapse. Now, maybe that happens. The Freedom Caucus is not exactly open to negotiation most of the time, so this comes down to 1) whether or not the Freedom Caucus accepts reality on what the Senate parliamentarian will allow, and 2) how thoroughly McConnell has established what kind of Senators Heller, Capito and the rest really are (see above). That second obstacle is probably the lesser obstacle. Still, we don't know what happens in conference, and trusting in scenario C to negate a yes vote on skinny repeal makes little sense. In case you haven't noticed, Mitch McConnell would sacrifice his own children to Satan if it meant he could claim to have "repealed and replaced Obamacare." House-Senate negotiations could very well fail, but voting yes in the hope that cross-chamber negotiations fail, given McConnell's determination is Stupid with a capital "S."
Unfortunately for the Senators who might understand this, they already passed up their free chance to vote yes on repeal. Since the parliamentarian ruled the Senate's repeal-and-replace bill to be in violation of reconciliation rules, Republicans could have voted yes for it, subject to a 60-vote threshold rather than a 51-vote threshold, claimed that they did vote to repeal Obamacare, but the GOP just didn't have enough seats. It was the Democrats' fault. Now, though? You see my point.
McConnell is playing with fire on "skinny repeal," and the stupidity of his caucus might burn things down.
*I'm pretty sure I first heard a version of this joke from one of my undergrad professors, but I choose not to name names...