Despite mass confusion about what exactly Republicans are trying to enact, and serious doubts as to whether they have the 50 votes needed to begin debate, Mitch McConnell announced the Senate will vote tomorrow on a motion to proceed to consideration of the American Health Care Act. That is the House-passed bill to partially repeal and replace Obamacare that constitutes the starting point for — well, whatever bill, if any, the Senate is in a position to pass.
As Vox’s respected health-care reporter Sarah Kliff broke her usual equanimity to observe, this is truly unprecedented:
It’s hard to capture what an absurd and somewhat unbelievable situation this is. Health care is a massive part of the economy. The ACA provides coverage to tens of millions of Americans. The Senate plans to vote on a bill Tuesday affecting all of that. And at this moment — 24 hours or so before they vote — they have no idea what the bill contains.
At some point today, McConnell and the White House clearly decided to go for broke on beginning debate. No one knows if they are even close to having the votes, but here’s one hint via a Politico reporter that they are a tad desperate:
Democrats will have a field day with the idea of Republicans lobbying doctors to send someone fighting a life-threatening illness back to Washington to help deny 22 million Americans health coverage. But most substantively, this is a sign that McCain’s vote is not disposable or replaceable.
For his part, the president made a positive vote on a motion to proceed his main demand in a video that featured “victims of Obamacare” along with some presidential thunder-and-lightning aimed especially at Senate Republicans who promised to repeal and replace Obamacare but haven’t succeeded so far.
Unless McCain somehow returns, it sure looks like the motion to proceed is doomed. And even then it would be a reach, according to another Politico report:
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are being treated as lost causes in informal whip counts, presumably dooming the measure out of the gate. To get to 49, a half-dozen other skeptical GOP senators would have to be persuaded.
Normally, coming clean on the direction of the bill instead of insisting on a vote to take the country into the great unknown would be a more promising tactic. But it seems McConnell and Trump can’t cut enough deals to get a majority of senators onboard with any revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, leaving this purely partisan “will to power” move as a last resort. In the unlikely event that it actually works, we’ll all wonder why Republicans did not try it six months ago.