After an extended discussion over lunch today, Senate Republicans decided not to have a vote tomorrow on the Graham-Cassidy health-care legislation. It was probably not a very happy discussion; as Politico put it in a headline, it involved a decision about “how to fail on Obamacare.” There was no longer any path to 50 votes on the bill after Susan Collins joined John McCain and Rand Paul yesterday as a firm “no” vote.
Presumably some Republicans wanted to go ahead with a vote anyway, less because of any hopes for a miracle than as a vengeful way to force the entire Republican caucus (hello, Lisa Murkowski!) to go on record. Additionally, if the GOP makes the insanely perilous decision to force yet another Obamacare-repeal measure into the upcoming budget resolution authorizing tax cuts (as two members of the Senate Budget Committee, Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson, are currently demanding, and they have the votes to gain some leverage), then having a clear baseline of support for Graham-Cassidy might be useful.
Announcing the vote’s been called off because the bill has failed, moreover, might in theory have an impact on marginal voters in today’s Alabama GOP Senate special-election runoff. What self-respecting conservative wants to go to a lot of trouble to vote for incumbent Luther Strange if he’s part of a gaggle of Establishment Republicans who can’t get it together to repeal Obamacare?
In the end, though, maintaining some fake suspense over a vote that was sure to be another defeat was something Senate Republicans decided not to do. Or perhaps, looking at the odds in Alabama, they just could not countenance the possibility of more than one public humiliation for Mitch McConnell in a 24-hour period.