Sunday, July 30, 2017
The Turtle as Resistance
Not intentionally but Doyle McManus writes that much of the blame for the failure of the repeal of ACA/Obamacare belongs squarely on the owlish shoulders of Mitch McConnell.
Presidents succeed when they deliver on their core campaign promises, and tend to fail when they don’t. A president who thinks strategically tries to begin his tenure with a legislative victory, to bolster an image of competence and strength.When they write new textbooks on how to pass legislation, this example will get pride of place for how not to do the process. Both The Turtle and The Shitgibbon fucked up bigly and for that we are gratreful.
Instead, President Trump’s first big legislative effort just ended in a stinging loss. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but McConnell, the owlish Kentuckian with a now-dented reputation as a legislative wizard, was the man in charge.
What went wrong?
First, McConnell and his Republicans had no plan — in part because they never expected Trump to win the presidential election. That meant many GOP senators had never done the hard work of figuring out what kind of Obamacare replacement they wanted, and what compromises they might accept if they ever had a chance to negotiate. There was no consensus about the kind of policy outcome they were seeking, beyond something they could call “repeal.”
Second, McConnell didn’t use the regular legislative process. Instead of sending healthcare to Senate committees for deliberation, he assembled a panel of 13 GOP senators, all white men, to write a bill behind closed doors.
That had two effects. It locked Democrats out of the process. And it offended Republicans who weren’t included.
There was a pragmatic reason for the backroom process. McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan decided to make Obamacare part of a budget bill that would need only 51 votes to pass. That, they thought, meant they wouldn’t need any Democratic help, so they didn’t even try to take a bipartisan approach. The strategy would also allow them to make the bill a vehicle for cutting taxes.
But the strategy backfired. Sen. John McCain of Arizona complained that the leadership produced “a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then [sprang] it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it's better than nothing” — a direct rebuke to McConnell.
Finally, the process went from bad to worse, culminating in a grotesque proposal — the “skinny repeal” — that McConnell promised would never become law. He asked Republican senators to ignore its substance and vote for it as an act of pure party loyalty. Three of them — McCain, Lisa Murkoswki of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — refused.
McConnell was not the only architect of this failure. Trump helped. Although the president exhorted Republicans to pull together behind something, it was clear he didn’t really care what the something was. His lobbying effort consisted largely of warning GOP dissidents that he’d punish them if they didn’t fall in line. And the bluster didn’t sway the three holdouts.
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