For the second time in less than two months, Senator John McCain has given a big thumbs-down to GOP legislation aimed at partially repealing and replacing Obamacare. This time he did not wait until the crucial vote in the Senate was under way, but his rejection of his party’s dubious health-care handiwork was just as dramatic:
I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it could cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.
Before and after this categorical rejection of the bill, McCain allowed that he loves its sponsors and might have been able to support it “were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case.” If he had some ham, he could have made a ham sandwich, if he had some bread. But it is clear he wasn’t kidding earlier about his insistence on “regular order.”
This doesn’t kill the Graham-Cassidy bill as 100 percent certainly as his vote against “skinny repeal” in July. But at this point sponsors would have to not only bring over wavering Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, but also flip either Susan Collins or Rand Paul. The former has opposed every past proposal that even vaguely resembled Graham-Cassidy, and the latter has lashed himself to evermore definitive statements of opposition, like Odysseus tying himself to the mast in the land of the sirens.
McCain made it clear the Senate should stop trying to use reconciliation to deal with Obamacare’s problems and return to the bipartisan negotiations that seemed to be developing some momentum before Graham-Cassidy came along. We’ll see in the coming days if the sponsors give up or double down, and what sort of temper tantrums the president throws. It is very unlikely at this point in his life than John McCain cares about any of that.