Four Republican senators — Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Ron Johnson, and Bill Cassidy — announced at a press conference that they would only support the Republican “skinny repeal” if they can be promised the House will not pass it into law. They described the law they are about to vote on as a disaster, and proceeded to explain why they could vote for it anyway.
Their arguments are a bundle of illogic. If there is a bill Senate Republicans would pass, they don’t need a conference to write it for them. They can pass it themselves. Why do they think a collection of House and Senate Republicans could do a better job of figuring out what Senate Republicans want to pass than the Senate Republicans could do themselves? Why not imagine their fantasy version of the greatest piece of legislation they could imagine emerging from the conference with the House, and then passing that in the Senate?
McCain made a slightly different, and even more absurd, argument. The elder statesman repeatedly called for Republicans and Democrats to work together, insisting Obamacare had failed because it had the support of only one party, and insisting bipartisanship offered the only path forward. And then he offered his probably decisive support for a bill that would prevent exactly that thing from happening. The conference committee McCain is explicitly hoping to convene would consist entirely of Republicans. It is a vehicle for a Republican-only health-care bill written through restrictive budget-reconciliation rules.
There are many Democrats and Republicans in both chambers eager to work together to shore up the exchanges. The only way that can happen would be if the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare, in whole or part, through budget reconciliation fails. McCain could have made it fail, and started bipartisan negotiations, by opposing it. Instead he is closing off the very thing he insists must happen.