Friday, July 14, 2017

The math is a harsh mistress: vote counting on repeal-and-replace

Get it?  No?  Never mind.

McConnell has unveiled yet another attempt at a "repeal-and-replace" bill, and it has some interesting mathematical properties already.  Immediately, Collins and Paul said they were "no" votes.  That creates two fascinating issues.

First, I've been calling Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson "the drama club," based on the presumption that they would demand changes and then vote yes.  They have to posture about who is the most conservative, but I didn't think they would sink the bill in the end.  Cruz and Lee have put together an amendment to bifurcate the market into one set of plans that meet the regulatory requirements of Obamacare, and another set of plans that don't.  Johnson has been quiet, but he'll probably go along, but Rand Paul has decided to out-conservative the drama club by saying that the "Cruz amendment" is squishy liberalism, and not conservative enough.  Damn!  That's some hardcore Stanislavski drama right there!

Collins...  No shock there.  I've been saying all along that her vote was un-gettable.  Notice who hasn't come out against the bill?  Murkowski.  Murkowski is just a shade to the right of Collins, but on substance, they have been sounding similar.

Notice, also, that Heller hasn't said no.  I've been telling you to watch Heller ever since his surprise turn against the bill.

So, I said we have a couple of interesting mathematical properties here.  The first is that right now, there are two automatic Republican no votes.  That means they have, at most, 50 votes plus Pence.  In political science jargon, that means every remaining Republican Senator who has yet to announce a vote is "pivotal."  They each have a deciding vote.  Any additional Republican who announces a no vote kills the whole thing.  That's a rare thing.  Yet, it happened in 2010 in the Senate on healthcare, and as I wrote earlier when discussing Heller, that gives bargaining power to anyone really considering a yes vote.  So, consider Heller or Murkowski or Capito, to give three important examples.  Those three are probably the hardest to get, for McConnell.  They can go to McConnell, and demand X.  They have credible threats to vote no, and if any of them vote no, they kill the legislation.  That's a lot of power.  So, sky's the limit, right?

Not so much.  The problem is... Rand Paul and the second mathematical property.  Unlike in 2010, this is also a kind of ends-against-the-middle situation.  Now that Rand Paul is out-conservativing the rest of the drama club, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson will want to get in on that sweet posturing action.  If Heller, Murkowski or Capito start demanding too much, then the Judean People's Front has to re-merge with that splitter, the Popular Front.  The drama club re-unites with Rand Paul, they oppose the moderated bill, and the support McConnell keeps from the moderates, he loses from the conservatives.  The bill is still dead.  He can try money, but his budget is limited, and the problem is similar.

So, why hasn't Murkowski, Heller or anyone else said anything?  They are trying to figure out what they can get.  It doesn't make any sense to announce anything before then.  Might as well try.  So, that's where we are.

Chances?  Collins and Murkowski are ideologically similar, so your best bet is that they vote the same way.  With Collins opposed, you should bet that Murkowski is opposed too.  With Paul opposed, the odds are against the current bill.  Losing Collins, Murkowski and Paul puts the GOP at a maximum of 49 votes.   Not definite, but the odds are against.  PredictIt currently has the Senate passing the bill in July trading at 16 cents on the dollar.  If Paul hadn't come out against the bill, I'd put the chances at much higher, but that changes the math a lot.  It puts everything on McConnell's ability to separate Collins from Murkowski, and everything before rested on treating Collins and Murkowski both as lost votes and just trying to keep Heller on board.  Now, McConnell needs both Heller and Murkowski.  Oh, and Capito and everyone else.

This could pass, but the math here is brutal.


  1. The icing on this shit sandwich is that the ones with brains don't want it to pass.
    No matter what bribes--err, "concessions"--you get from that huge kitty that McConnell has kept for himself to dole out, the actual on-the-ground consequences from this are a total shitshow. Passing a law means owning health care. Ask the Dems how happy they are with that. Now, pile on to that the basics of "fuck you, women, poor people, and other humans" and it gets ugly.

    I imagine there's 35 senators HOPING that they lose one more so they can appear to have tried without the albatross of succeeding.

    The drama club is interesting. Cruz & Lee are in a bind, since their fucking crap idea got accepted. Now it's much harder to claim they don't like it (why amend it if the amended product is still so bad?). Regular people could, but not the drama club; their raison-d'etre is "fuck you, I don't care about reality, I won't vote for anything that isn't perfect!"

    However, as I type that, I think of another example of that behavior: the entire GOP caucus in 2010. "I would never vote for the idea that was my shitty cover to vote against your idea!"

    Rand Paul played it smarter: 'I have principles, so I can't negotiate with all you RINOs'

    I dunno. McConnell seems to be making the Christmas tree play. We haven't seen those in a long time. I'm not sure it'll work. But, Murkowski, Heller, and Capito represent a total of 5.5 million people. McConnell might simply add in a proposal that the good people of Alaska, WV, and NV get checks for 100K. Each.

    1. The twist on the Christmas tree plan is, as I wrote earlier, what happened to Nelson and Landrieau. After they voted to pass the ACA, their pots of money got taken away by the reconciliation bill after the House passed the Senate's bill. If Murkowsi, Heller or Capito vote yes and then lose their money somewhere along the way, it'll be their own fault. Still, I suspect that there are plenty who are hoping that Murkowski just says no.