Obamacare repeal is not yet dead

In the wee hours of this morning, the US Senate voted down the ‘skinny repeal’ of Obamacare bill and then adjourned for the August recess without having achieved their goal of starting the process of dismantling Obamacare. The final vote was 51-49 with three Republicans (Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain) joining all 48 Democrats in voting against the measure. As one could have predicted, McCain has hogged media praise for his gosh-darned maverickiness in voting against his party at the last minute while Collins and Murkowski, not to mention the 48 Democratic senators who have long held firm, are largely ignored.

Ryan Grim provides the background to what went down.

After dispatching with repeal and repeal-and-replace in not-close votes, the Senate moved on to “skinny repeal” — a repeal of just a wee bit of Obamacare, just enough to get 50 votes and move to conference committee, where, somehow, the fundamental dynamics that had blocked repeal would be overcome.

But wait, asked Senate Republicans, what if we pass something — and it actually becomes law? It was too much to contemplate.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson, John McCain, and Bill Cassidy held a press conference Thursday night in the Capitol demanding full assurance from the House that the lower chamber would not, under any circumstances, take up the bill they planned to pass and send it to the White House. If the Senate could be assured it would go to conference committee instead, they promised, then they would support it.

To be clear: They demanded a public promise that the bill they were voting for would never become law in order to agree to vote for it.

The promise Ryan offered was less than a promise. “If moving forward requires a conference committee, that is something the House is willing to do,” he offered in a late-night statement.

But he had a condition: The Senate needed to put up. Eventually. “We expect the Senate to act first on whatever the conference committee produces,” Ryan insisted.

In other words, fine, vote for your sham bill. But when the conference committee creates one more sham, y’all have to vote on it first, proving to the American people — and, more importantly, to Trump — that it is the Senate that doesn’t have the votes. Never mind that the House didn’t have the votes, either, when they thought it was real.

McCain, who returned to the Senate after a brain cancer diagnosis to cast the dramatic vote McConnell needed to get the bill on the floor, put it as well as anybody could. Just before the Senate took up the critical vote, he told reporters, “Wait for the show.”

McCain joined with Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to give the chamber just enough votes to kill it, 51-49.

It was all a show.

Yes it is all a show, it is always a show, but the catch is that this show is not over. When Republican congresspersons go back to their districts during the August recess, they are going to get an earful from their conservative base for whom repeal of Obamacare is akin to attaining nirvana. After Congress reconvenes in September, this issue will be brought up again and again until something passes. McCain is the weak link in the opposition to Obamacare repeal. After basking in the glow of maverickiness for a while, he will cave. He always does.

Because in the badly written show that is the US Congress, the fat lady never sings until the rich get what they want.

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