Amid all of the other news, you may have missed that John McCain, who killed the GOP's "repeal-and-replace" efforts in the Senate a little over a month ago with his surprise vote against "skinny repeal," has decided to back the one remaining proposal that has been floating around in the background.
Yes, that's right. There's one more bill. It is being written by Bill Cassidy, and McCain's rentboy, Lindsey Graham. A month ago, I wrote about the bill, and the difficulties that it would face here. The big one? Lamar Alexander has opened up bipartisan negotiations to patch up some of the holes in Obamacare, and parallel legislative tracks with one bill trying to kill Obamacare and the other process trying to fix it... that ain't gonna work.
So, the basic math is as follows. If Collins and Murkowski are still no votes on Graham-Cassidy (which they probably would be), but McCain switches, and everyone else stays yes, then Graham-Cassidy could pass. Would everyone else in the Senate GOP caucus stay yes? Probably. There's the question of Dean Heller and Shelley Moore Capito, but in the end, they caved, so you'd have to figure they cave again. Graham-Cassidy isn't finished yet, so once finished, it might run into problems with the parliamentarian. The parliamentarian could, once again, rule provisions of the bill ineligible for "budget reconciliation" under the Byrd rule if those provisions aren't budgetary. That would make the bill subject to the filibuster, in which case the 60-vote threshold would apply, and the GOP wouldn't have the votes to pass it. The parliamentarian ruled that the previous bills-- other than "skinny repeal"-- had provisions that violated the Byrd rule. If that were to happen with Graham-Cassidy, the GOP would be fucked yet again. There's also the problem that the clock is ticking on the "reconciliation" instructions, meaning that if they don't get this thing done in time, they can't dodge the filibuster. Of course, there's always starting over with new reconciliation instructions, but that's a pain in the ass... In theory, though, McCain's switch could make Graham-Cassidy a reality.
The real problem now is that as long as the Senate is actually working on bipartisan fixes, nobody working on those fixes can also work on Graham-Cassidy, and nobody working on Graham-Cassidy can work on fixes. It's a good faith-bad faith thing. Anyone working seriously on Graham-Cassidy is not attempting to patch up the holes in Obamacare, and anyone working seriously on Lamar Alexander's process has already given up on Graham-Cassidy.
The fact that Lamar Alexander started his process means he wrote off Graham-Cassidy as a joke from the get-go. That's worth considering. So, from McCain's perspective, why bother?
I... don't know. Maybe it's throwing a bone to a friend, so to speak. Maybe it's trying to get back on conservatives' good side. Maybe he's just being McCain. It's hard to tell why McCain does anything he does. The important thing to keep in mind, though, is that while McCain's endorsement of Graham-Cassidy makes it a mathematical possibility, it isn't just the upcoming expiration of reconciliation instructions that puts that bill in jeopardy. It's Lamar Alexander's decision to start working on bipartisan fixes to Obamacare.
Bipartisanship on the debt ceiling, bipartisanship on Obamacare... Is it me, or are we seeing a bizarre level of bipartisanship right now? I gotta think about that...