July 28th, 2017

Skinny repeal couldn’t get to 50 votes

Today features still another failed attempt at Obamacare reform, this time the defeat of a modified (“skinny”) repeal bill.

Because the GOP has such a slim majority in the Senate, and because no Democrats will come aboard, it would take the “yes” votes of all but two of the GOP senators to get to 50 (Pence could break the tie), and so three defections were able to kill the bill. The defections were by Susan Collins (who can’t really be called a “defection,” since she had voted “no” on repeal back in 2015), Lisa Murkowski (who voted to repeal in 2015), and John McCain (likewise).

This is an old, old story. Collins and Murkowski are RINOs extraordinaire who often vote with Democrats, and as I already mentioned, Collins was one of just a few who voted that way in 2015 as well. McCain is—well, Mr. Maverick himself, and this particular move will not endear him to the conservative wing of the party.

It doesn’t endear him to me, either. Here is his statement; you can read it and judge it for yourself. On the surface, this sort of thing makes sense:

The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.

The idea that the details of a “replace” bill should be ready to go when “repeal” is passed, and that we shouldn’t trust promises that it will be taken up in a timely fashion, seems sensible. The problem is that this was originally tried, and it couldn’t pass, either.

The “skinny repeal” bill was a compromise arrived at in order to get the negotiations to continue, including probably some changes in the House. “Skinny repeal” was a Sancho Panza bill, as it were. McCain is the Don Quixote here (that is, if you think he’s sincere—and many people would say he’s not).

Here’s an example of what he’d like to see happen, taken from his statement on the reasons for his “no” vote [emphasis mine]:

I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.

Everything except that highlighted bit is possible, but bipartisanship has gone the way of the dodo and “reach-across-the-aisle” McCain fails to realize it (although if you think he’s insincere, you’d amend that to say he realizes it and doesn’t care because this is all a pose on his part). The problem is that McCain’s own voting “no” on the skinny repeal is probably the best way to ensure that none of the things on his list will be happening.

36 Responses to “Skinny repeal couldn’t get to 50 votes”

  1. Griffin Says:

    This entire issue is so brutal. There really is no answer I fear but since I have been sucked into it I try not to think about it too much as it just depresses me. But come November I’ll have to deal with it again.

  2. Cornhead Says:

    I think the focus should be on the so-called moderate Dems from WV, ND and MT.

    Not a single Dem would vote for repeal. That’s the story.

    No way should Susan Collins be the most important person in the US.

    And this was McCain’s payback for Trump’s campaign comment about McCain getting captured. It was all personal with John, IMO. I’m disappointed.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    McCain like all RINOs is most comfortable with incremental surrender to the Left. It provides the political cover needed for plausible deniability. On some level he has to know that democrats are not amenable to compromise and are only interested in a victory that humiliates.

    It is literally shakesperean in its irony, that a man who sacrificed so much for his country in his youth, should in his old age participate so blindly in its destruction.

  4. DNW Says:

    “It is literally shakesperean in its irony, that a man who sacrificed so much for his country in his youth, should in his old age participate so blindly in its destruction”

    That is way too generous. His country and mine are obviously not the same country.

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    I think you’re right about McCain seeing this as some payback to Trump. And disparaging the sacrifice that any tortured POW has endured is a truly despicable thing to do. So Trump deserves that payback but America does not and in placing personal animosity first, McCain does a disservice to the oath he has taken.

    I’m doubtful that McCain even recognizes it. As it would take a petty, vindictive man to realize it and still do it.

  6. Matt_SE Says:

    McCain has been bought and paid for by the left for years. He’s quite simply a fraud.

    But I thank him for his service!

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain; Cornhead:

    I would say it’s payback to Trump except for one thing—McCain has been doing this sort of thing for decades. It is completely consist with his prior behavior in the Senate, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Trump or payback to Trump.

    That said, it also acts as payback to Trump, so it becomes a sort of twofer.

  8. Big Maq Says:

    “No way should Susan Collins be the most important person in the US.

    McCain like all RINOs is most comfortable with incremental surrender to the Left.”

    What is wrong with this view is that it looks only at this latest vote, and to assign blame based on that.

    This proposal and probably where it would end up, if “successful”, is a place that ensconces much of what obamacare was all about.

    Certain unnamed anarcho-whateveritismists like to make as if this were the fulcrum upon which American liberty resides.

    Far from it.

    THIS is how incrementalism comes about.

    It is not merely different countries, but alternate universes with different laws of physics it seems at play, if this is what one makes of it.

    “Repeal and Replace!” – With what?

    Way back when they first started pushing this idea of repealing obamacare, the GOP failed to come to the table organized around a set of policies / doctrines that they would advocate and sell.

    Without that, there is no commitment to implement any major change, nor is there any clear mandate to do so.

    And it was made much worse where we have a POTUS who showed little leadership on this (hardly committed to making major change on this, nor care enough to know enough to sell any part of what was proposed, and even criticized what they did produce – “Too Mean”), short of threats and other petty public taunts (that raise the possibility of opposition, just because).

    So, they were left with this potemkin “Repeal” effort, just to make it appear that they were fulfilling their promise, and trump would have a “Win!!!” he can sign.

    In the end, ultimately, it is “we” who never really demanded to know where each stood, at least not below the “Repeal and Replace” slogan.

    So, no surprise there is no agreement even on this menial level of change, let alone on any major change implied by the “Repeal and Replace” rhetoric.

    What a bloody wasted opportunity this all was!

  9. physicsguy Says:

    While McCain is rightly getting his share of the blame, don’t forget about Murkowski, who unlike Collins campaigned heavily on repeal. She holds as much blame as McCain.

  10. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Well, I guess this is McCain’s “I got mine, fuck you” moment. Not much chance he’ll need healthcare for very much longer, so might as well have ours flushed down the socialist toilet.

  11. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Big Maq,

    I am speculating on McCain’s motives rather than the validity of the ‘skinny’ bill. And his incremental surrender is long established.

    Given your prior positions, you’ll understand when I decline to accept your definition of what incremental surrender consists.

  12. Big Maq Says:

    “(The vote) … was the necessary end result of seven months in which the president of the United States ate up all the oxygen in Washington with his ugly, petty, seething, resentful rages and foolishnesses as expressed in 140 illiterate characters.

    There is plenty of blame to go around, of course. But this failure was in the cards the minute Trump both limited his party’s freedom of action by blathering ignorantly on national television and decided to conduct his presidency as though he were Judge Judy. – John Podhoretz

  13. Big Maq Says:

    @GB – what outcome are you looking for?

    It is not just McCain’s position on this (and there’s been plenty to be critical about his record).

    If this bill would truly lead to repeal and an actual replacement that is fundamentally different, then you’d be on solid ground about McCain’s this being an acceptance of incrementalism.

    Unless there is something I don’t know about what was likely to have happened if this were passed, it seems to be merely an incremental move, and far from a repeal.

    BOTH yay or nay votes were essentially about incrementalism.

  14. Ann Says:

    McCain was a “yes” on the earlier repeal and replace with a new plan vote, but “no” on the next partial repeal vote, and now the “no” on the “skinny” repeal. So I think we should give him credit for consistency on the “replace” part as being essential.

  15. Oldflyer Says:

    Ann, are you referring to the sham votes when Obama was standing by with the veto pen?

    Someone characterized McCain’s position as petty and vindictive. I don’t know the man, but I know men who served with him. Petty and vindictive is not a completely new description.

  16. Ann Says:

    Oldflyer, I’m referring to the series of votes carried out over the last week. Nothing to do with the Obama presidency. Check out the article at the link I provided.

  17. TommyJay Says:

    I’d like to point out that Susan Collins voted for a complete repeal in 2014, when the vote didn’t matter. Later, in 2015 she voted against a complete repeal, and now she is against even a minimalist repeal.

    In short, she was for it before she was against it. Note, she was for it when she was up for re-election, then she was against it after she could coast for 6 years. So she must feel that her constituents are against it, but doesn’t care to represent the majority.

    To be fair, I don’t think senators or reps. should always side with the majorities of their constituents. But Collins is just a major fraud.

  18. Frog Says:

    McCain is simply out of his gourd, such as it is.
    Said he, “it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens.”

    It and predecessor Obamacare are NOT about health care. They are about financing and “insuring”.

    The geezers in the Senate, and the younger geezers in the House, have been charged by whom, exactly, to “actually reform our health care system” and “deliver affordable quality health care”? By no one. The Dems want single payer, i.e. gov’t control, as in Canada and other countries where health care is said to cost less, but also always delivers less.

    The stupidity of the Volk, and the propagandistic lies of the McCains and fellow rodents, plus the lamebrain media cannot see this very simple but very important distinction.

    We are truly aboard the Titanic, with a blind crew in charge of navigation.

    Once we get single payer, health care progress comes to a screeching, permanent stop. Do you know we can now replace an aortic valve without surgically entering the chest? You expect that amazing progress to continue?

  19. huxley Says:

    Big Maq: For me the most damning portion of the Podhoretz column was:

    Remember that it was Trump, in the weeks before his inauguration, who went on “60 Minutes” and insisted that repealing ObamaCare and replacing it simply had to happen at the same moment. That announcement—made with little or no preparation or forethought, it won’t surprise you to recall—instantly made the job of coming up with a political strategy to secure victories on health care vastly more difficult.

    It was also a mark of that unseriousness. Here’s what I mean: Say a President Trump who was a different sort of person had convened meetings during the transition period to devise a long-term strategy for the passage of health-care reform legislation. In those meetings, all kinds of obvious scenarios could have been gamed out, including the nature of the attacks against reform. With those scenarios in mind, arguments could have been devised to counter the attacks.

    This is what a serious effort to enact health-care reform would have entailed—both a substantive approach to answer weaknesses in the GOP effort and a communications approach to go on the offensive to explain why this would be better than the status quo.

    Dealing with Obamacare was the #1 required undertaking for Trump and the GOP after the 2016 election. Everything else was a matter of rolling Obama EOs back, coaxing the economy forward and responding sensibly to foreign policy issues. But Obamacare would take some hard thought and serious work.

    I can somewhat understand why Trump and the GOP weren’t preparing a Obamacare strategy in 2016. But since Trump won last November, it seems all we have is wishful thinking and sloppiness.

  20. Tim Turner Says:

    The Democrats will never talk about ACA unless it’s moving to Single Payer/Medicare for all. At least from the back-party chatter that I’m privy to. They’re totally convinced that this is morally right and what “America Wants”.

    I think the way to go with repeal is actually to leave it standing. Create a Red State opt-out so that people don’t have to participate in the system. That’s the immoral thing about ACA anyway, the rest is just badly managed bureaucracy.

    Either send ACA to the states, with an option to do Single Payer (which the Democrats would consider, the difficulty is that Blue state would have to foot the bill, and somehow they are capable of imagining that WE can pay for it all, they probably won’t think that THEY can pay for it.)

    Or, make a nation-wide opt-out. Just remove the Individual Mandate (yearly opportunity to opt-out) and make sure that doctors and insurers don’t need to be in the system. Some of this already exists now (doctors on a cash-only basis, the Amish exemption, etc), which is important. Create a two-system solution. This is a really great solution because it allows the formation of a truly free market health care to form naturally, on it’s own, while maintaining a basic safety net.

  21. Ann Says:

    The only thing Trump was ever “serious” about was winning. That was obvious throughout his campaign for the nomination, which consisted mainly of taunts and insults, with ever-changing positions on just about everything.

  22. The Other Chuck Says:

    I’m with Cornhead on this. It’s payback on McCain’s part. Remember that he was persuaded to vote for Gorsuch. Given the deadlock on healthcare this was the time to vote to continue the process. I don’t buy his stated reasons.

  23. huxley Says:

    Yeah, I’m not real keen on McCain’s choice in this matter either.

  24. zat Says:

    It’s like a Renaissance painting:

  25. Ymar Sakar Says:

    McCain’s got so many bribes in his pocket, he might as well be working for the Commies. At least the Commie spies people found under FDR and Truman, had issues to deal with and eventually got executed or exposed. This guy won’t be exposed until he dies.

    McCarthy quest for spies didn’t turn out to be an accurate probe until he died.a

  26. Ymar Sakar Says:

    McCain personally makes choices about how to sabotage OIF and Afghanistan under Bush II, just because somebody ran some ads about McCain in the primary being a traitor, even though it wasn’t Bush II’s admin.

    That’s how “personal” it gets with this “hero”.

  27. Big Maq Says:

    “There was no effort to persuade and defend in part because nobody owned these pieces of legislation. They were leadership products that had no particular sponsors. – Ramesh Ponnuru

    Ramesh focuses on the Congressional GOP and the media.

    While what he says seems accurate, it is not the whole story, unless by “sponsors” he is implying trump also.

    The distractions (media airtime), the lack of a commitment by trump on what he’d accept as policy (“too mean”), and his lack of leadership / salesmanship on this is also huge factor.

    But that is also only on these bills as constructed.

    The biggest issue, as mentioned above, is not having a policy set they were selling from the get go, of what a “Replacement” actually looks like.

    Nor were we asking for such an explanation.

  28. Brian E Says:

    The biggest issue, as mentioned above, is not having a policy set they were selling from the get go, of what a “Replacement” actually looks like.
    Nor were we asking for such an explanation.

    Make that “we” you, Big Maq.

    This was the classic conservative dilemma. The policy set the GOP campaigned on and proposed was less government– which is a hard sell when you’re arguing against implementing more big government.
    But it’s a losing hand when you’re arguing to take away government largesse. Never once did the Republicans make the argument that Medicaid expansion/Medicare entitlements are going to increase putting pressure on the budget. They aren’t sustainable without tax increases and up next is tax reform/reduction.

    President Trump has stated he wants the Democrats involved in any ACA reform. The program isn’t going to become smaller in exchange for their support.

  29. Ymar Sakar Says:

    If people want Congress to get rid of O care, they need to first repeal Congress’ O care immunity and their elite gold healthcare system.

    Once the leaders suffer the same as the peasants, ala Washington, then the leadership gets motivated to actually do something for once.

    But humans, even Americans, are not exceptionally smart enough nor wise enough, to notice this in time to do anything about it.

  30. Big Maq Says:

    “Make that “we” you, Big Maq” – Brian E

    Look, you are lassoing a strawman if you think it is me who is asking for more government intervention (recall our discussion about trade not to far back?).

    “But it’s a losing hand when you’re arguing to take away government largesse.”

    Also, I happen to NOT think it is a losing hand.

    BUT, if you approach things from a leftist framing (ahem, of which the trade discussion fits in pattern, oh, and recall your framing of the big bad corporations people need “protection” from), then of course it seems a “losing hand”.

    Rather like my question to you on another thread, where do you really fall in those two world views you raised to me?

    You continue to argue with me like I’m the one advocating more government, for less individual responsibility. Yet, when we get to actual policy, you seem to revert to the opposite.

    In a democracy, is it not our individual responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable? To set some expectation of what we want from them?

    But, if we let them merely promise to “Replace” obamacare, but we never ask them, what does that mean? what are you actually going to do? are we fulfilling our responsibility?

    We can blame the politicians. We can blame the philosophy and its policies as a “hard sell”.

    But, are we even trying to fulfill our role, if we don’t demand these answers? Or are we abdicating, or giving up, or both? Lulling ourselves with blame on others and excuses of why it is “too hard”?

    Honestly answer these for yourself.

    Many here focus on this “skinny repeal” and get their knickers wound up about who failed to vote it through, when the fact is it is a sham.

    In addition to any failures of strategy and vision on the politicians part, it is also, in large part so, because “WE” the citizens who voted GOP didn’t demand an answer to the question “Replace – With what?”.

  31. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The entire Trum nomination process was a shame cooked up by Trum and his friend HRC. That’s still not in jail btw.

    Americans love their reality tv shows and their idol worship and their other entertainment circuses.

    That’ll last right up to the End.

  32. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The thing about DC is its inertia.

    If you don’t stop a program soon, it becomes unstoppable like Social security.

    Which is where the “repeal” gets in. And people are correct to note that they need to repeal O care. They are wrong, though, in their tactics, as usual. Their strategy is non existent and even the Leftist zombies have superior logistics than their enemies.

  33. AesopFan Says:

    In re single payer, this speaks for itself.


  34. Big Maq Says:

    @AesopFan – the US has been a major beneficiary of some of the top talent that these other single payer nations have disenfranchised.

    We are heading down the path where there may be no place for that talent to go.

    Maybe they’ll all go to the locations that host medical tourism, where bureaucracy is greatly reduced and earnings potential increased.

  35. AesopFan Says:

    Another consequence of public health monopoly.


  36. AesopFan Says:

    Mark Steyn nailed it 7 years ago.


    Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever-expanding number of government jobs will be statists – sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily “compassionate” statists, but always statists. The short history of the post-war welfare state is that you don’t need a president-for-life if you’ve got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect “conservatives,” as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the Left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who, for tuppence-ha’penny or some such, would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place.

    Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV, crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.

    OK, then what? You’ll roll it back – like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you’ve undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel’n’dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus:

    “Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?”

    Indeed. …
    This “reform” is not about health care, and certainly not about “controlling costs.” As with Medicare, it “controls” costs by declining to acknowledge them, or pay them.
    … Because government health care is not about health care, it’s about government. Once you look at it that way, what the Dems are doing makes perfect sense. For them.

    ~from Steyn’s syndicated column, March 5th 2010

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