I have been making "dead parrot" references when describing the GOP's "repeal" bills in the Senate, but as I keep reading, the retort is that the same was said in the House, and then the House passed a bill. Well, yes, but the Senate is different. Let's go through the issues here.
1) Back in March, before the House originally forced Ryan to pull the first bill, I posted this. In it, I argued that the House moderates had every incentive to help the House pass a bill based on the presumption that it would fail in the Senate, so they had nothing to worry about. (I also referenced the parrot sketch.) So, my point when analyzing the House originally was that they should have been expected to pass the bill, with House moderates trusting the Senate to kill the whole thing. So, don't give me this, "the bill was declared dead in the House" crap. I originally expected it to pass the House precisely because the House moderates could trust it to die in the Senate. Then, in a later post, I pointed out that if they had that much difficulty in the House, the Senate was going to be damn-near impossible (with references to bluegrass, 'cuz bluegrass is awesome).
2) Senate leaders have fewer disciplinary tools. This is just a basic function of how the chambers work. Party leadership in the House asserts stronger control over committee assignments, who gets to offer amendments to bills, and all that good stuff. In the Senate? Not so much. McConnell just doesn't have any options other than offering up pork, and there's a limit to what he can offer. Cross-chamber rules matter. Discipline in the Senate is always more difficult to maintain. Again, if it was as difficult as it was in the House, the Senate was going to be a Heraclean task. (I'm going with the Greek because I'm pretentious, and the spell-checker in this thing doesn't like it. I should lecture it about how the Greeks came first. Also, "quixotic" is pronounced, "keehotic.")
3) Susan Collins is definitely a lost cause, and there's nothing anyone can do to threaten Lisa Murkowski. She lost a primary challenge in 2010 to "Tea Party" candidate, Joe Miller. She didn't step aside. She ran as an independent, write-in candidate, because it was too late to get her name on the ballot. There were questions about whether a vote would count if someone mis-spelled her name (as, for example, "Merkowksi"). Without even having her fucking name on the ballot, having just lost a primary, she still kept her seat. If someone wants to threaten to primary her for stopping the GOP's repeal efforts, do you think that will scare her? Oh, and she isn't even up again until 2022 anyway. That's why McConnell was just trying to buy her off, but while he was focused on trying to buy off Murkowski, Lee and Moran bolted, which kind of makes the point. When you have no stick and limited carrots, you're kind of screwed. In the House? If it gets too bad, just threaten to take away people's committee assignments, etc., and at least you have something. Some of them are still afraid of primaries. But, Collins is probably running for Maine Governor, and Murkowski is immune to threats. There's no massaging either of those points. And, every time McConnell tries to offer Murkowski something, he pisses off the conservatives.
4) I've said, over and over again, watch Dean Heller. Heller let Lee and Moran kill the "repeal-and-replace" bill, and he let Capito kill the "repeal-and-delay" vote because he's trying to thread a needle here. Here's the thing, though. That group that ran ads against him can't take those ads back. An independent group ran a couple of ads against Heller for not being sufficiently anti-Obamacare. Threats aren't a good way to deal with Senators, so McConnell and other leaders told the group to pull the ads, and the ads were pulled. Then, at that surreal GOP Senate meet-and-greet with Trump, Trump decided to needle Heller. Why? Because Trump can't help but be a fucking asshole. Wrong move. This all pushes Heller away. And what's done is done. Can Heller be brought back? That's not easy.
Now remember, there was always an easier way. If you go back to what I've been saying since the beginning of this mess, the GOP has always had an easier option: piecemeal bills. Repeal the medical device tax. Repeal the employer mandate, etc. As pressure builds, they may actually turn to this option, or something like it. But, Collins and Murkowski are lost causes, and everything the GOP is doing puts Heller further out of reach, and Capito doesn't look like she is playing along either.
And as I said in March, I expected the House to pass something precisely because the House moderates could trust the Senate to kill it.