Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The future of Obamacare in Congress

As I wrote yesterday, staying on track is hard.  With the Fox News lawsuit, word that Trump wrote Fredo's initial statement on his meeting with the Russian agents, and so forth, there is so much to discuss.  But, I really want to get back to Congress.  That's what I know best, so that's just what I'm going to write today.  The burdens of being just one asshole who writes this over his morning coffee...

Anyway, will the GOP try again?  Well, there are three things going on.  There is Trump's ongoing threat to cut off payments to the insurance companies who happen to get costly customer bases, and then the two interesting developments.  First, Lamar Alexander has announced that he will being holding bipartisan Senate hearings on actually fixing the real holes in Obamacare.  That's kind of a "holy shit" kind of thing.  This was McConnell's worst nightmare.  Bipartisanship.  This was the sword of Damocles that he tried to dangle over his party's throats as the threat to get them to pass whatever bill he wrote in secret.  What will come of that?  Waaaaay too soon to tell.

And then we've got one last "repeal-and-replace" effort worming its way through the system, and the GOP really might try again with it.  Would they succeed?  The odds remain strongly against them, but this is not a party motivated by rational thought.  The word, "Obamacare," sends them into paroxysms of mindless rage, having "Eternal Sunshined" the memory of Obamacare's origins from their own brains.

The rough outline of the last remaining plan is this:  Lindsey Graham is working with some dude named Bill Cassidy on a plan to block grant a bunch of money to the states.

Wait a minute...

Hang on...



I... don't think that memory got totally Eternal Sunshined...  I'm having a Montauk moment here.  Yeah, definitely a Montauk moment.*

Yes, back in January, Susan Collins put together a proposal for an Obamacare "replacement" based on turning a bunch of the funding into... block grants to the states!  Oh, and her co-author?  Bill Motherfuckin' Cassidy!

I wrote a bunch of stuff at the time about how, if the GOP were a normal party, they'd take Collins-Cassidy as their bill, pass that through the House and Senate, call it done, and move on.  But, I then quickly concluded this.  That's right.  Back in January, I wrote that Collins was in a weaker position than she should be with Collins-Cassidy because the GOP is filled with the people John Boehner called "knuckleheads," who can't accept anything less than total victory.  As a result, they end up with defeat.  And... here we are.

Except, here we aren't, because Cassidy isn't working with Collins anymore.  He's working with Lindsey Graham.  You know, that hypocritical, cowardly little twit who whined about how horrible "skinny repeal" would be if enacted, and then voted yes on it?  Yeah, that little dingleberry hanging from John McCain's ass.  John, for the love of all that is good and holy and clean, grab some fucking toilet paper!  (Or maybe three seashells...)

So, a few questions.

1)  Why Graham, and not Collins?

2)  What chance does Graham-Cassidy have?

3)  Has McCain used up the last of his integrity?

4)  Has Lamar Alexander short-circuited all of this?

The short answer to the first question is that Collins has basically been ejected from GOP negotiations.  Even if the bill winds up looking like what she would have wanted, she and Murkowski were treated so badly that the Republicans are going to have a hard time getting either of them back.  Those are some burned bridges, and they didn't have to be burned.  That said, Graham-Cassidy is more conservative than Collins-Cassidy.  The block grants are smaller, and that means less redistribution.  So, more conservative, and Collins may sincerely oppose it anyway.  Similarly, Murkowski may oppose it on policy grounds.  Regardless, Graham is starting from the same concept, making this whole thing kind of funny, but not "ha-ha" funny.

On the second question, there are a bunch of obstacles.  Collins and Murkowski are going to be hard to bring back into the fold after the mess of what McConnell tried to pull.  This is sort of a, "now you come crawling back to me," kind of thing, like I said above, with even Cassidy having turned his back on Collins, and then you've got the standard problem of the irrationality of the Freedom Caucus.  And then...

McCain.  Even aside from his medical issues, he made a big speech about regular order.  He also voted to open debate, and voted for a proposal that didn't go through regular order.  Yes, he eventually did the right thing, but McCain may have used up the last tiny shred of his integrity on that one moment.  If McCain, Collins and Murkowski tell McConnell that they won't vote for any bill that doesn't go through committee, so he better not try to pull that shit again, then Graham-Cassidy has to go through committee.  Can it survive a committee process?  That's tough.  McConnell's strategy has been predicated on the notion that no bill can survive open debate, mark-up and amendment procedures, and he may be right.  If so, then whether or not this thing has a chance depends on whether or not McCain can scrounge up any last vestiges of honor.  I wouldn't bet on it.  He may have shot his wad.

And of course, you may ask yourself, if Lindsey Graham thought that the block grant thing was such a great idea, why didn't he go to Collins and Cassidy back in January?  He could have saved everyone a lot of trouble and just started negotiations with them on the size of the grants, etc.  Little, fuckin' twerp...

But then, we get to the much harder question.  Lamar Alexander.  He is opening bipartisan negotiations.  What will come of those?  We have no idea.  Anything that does will rely mostly on Democratic votes.  It will be like with debt ceiling increases.  Why?  Republicans who vote for a bill to fix Obamacare will be Obamacare collaborators.  Even if there are just barely enough to pass such a bill, the chances of passage in the House will be slim because Paul Ryan would have to permit a vote.  If he allows such a bill to get a vote, he will face a revolt by the Freedom Caucus.  I'll elaborate on this later, but the basic premise is this.  The majority party in the House operates on the principle that if a majority of the majority party doesn't want a bill to pass, it doesn't get a vote.  A majority of the House Republicans won't want whatever Lamar Alexander produces to get a vote.  Therefore, Paul Ryan won't be allowed to let it get a vote.  If he does, the Freedom Caucus demands an ouster.  He gets Boehnered.

But, Alexander's process may shut down Graham-Cassidy anyway.

Where does that leave the GOP?  It is really hard to see how they accomplish anything, and really hard to see how anything bipartisan happens.  Trump could throw a temper tantrum and blow up the individual markets because he's an idiot child.  The consequences of that?  Bad.  He could also decide that he's so sick of "losing" that he needs to go to war somewhere.  I keep writing that, and I'm still serious about that.  If we were talking about a normal, rational, intelligent, serious president, this wouldn't be on the table, but this is Donald Trump.  The question has never been whether or not he has a level head.  Anyone with a brain knows that he doesn't.  The question has aways been whether or not those around him can prevent him from making decisions based on his own worst impulses.

Oh, and according to Lindsey Graham, Trump wants to go to war with North Korea, in case you missed that detail...

*Go watch the movie, damn it.


  1. The three seashells reference: truly surprised to see that from you.

    1. I figure that if I use a high-brow art flick like Eternal Sunshine, it balances out. Besides, do you like every source of every reference you know? Then again, you have to expect me to be a Leary fan.