Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Nancy: "He can't use chopsticks, can he?" Chuck: "He can't use judgment." Via New York Daily News.
I can't really stand to write about the congressional health care agita unless I can see a glimmer of hope somewhere, and it's obviously been looking very bleak for the last week or two over there and getting bleaker, reaching a kind of climax of awfulness yesterday, when Lamar Alexander of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee announced he was giving up on the bipartisan bill he and Patty Murray had been working on to keep the Obamacare marketplace going through another year, just as it had started to sound like a negotiating breakthrough, and the project of saving the PPACA that had seemed so hopeful a week or two ago was dead.

Then there was something weird about that: according to the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin (yes, in this brave new world I can be reduced from time to time to quoting Jennifer Rubin, and retweeting David Frum too), it wasn't an inability to bridge that partisan divide that had killed the Alexander-Murray bill, it was Majority Leader McConnell:

because it was bipartisan, non-extreme and did not afford the Republican Senate a win for the sake of winning and the chance to get back in the good graces of the manifestly unfit and unstable president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stepped in to nix it.
That is what, according to multiple sources, happened yesterday as Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) cleared the decks on substantive issues. But then Alexander got yanked back. He hinted at the pressure he was under when he told the press he was “not a magician.” Too embarrassed to acknowledge he’d been stomped on by McConnell, he put out a patently disingenuous statement....
McConnell apparently didn't want Senators like Collins and Murkowski and McCain to even imagine they could have a chance of voting on the kind of adequately vetted, bipartisan health bill they'd been asking for, so he put a stop to those negotiations before they actually got somewhere. They'll vote for Mitch's bill, as far as Mitch is concerned, or they'll vote for nothing.

The glimmer of hope here is the glimmer of hubris, as when old king Oedipus is telling the Thebans, I got this, folks, you want to know who killed the previous king and I'm putting all my detectives on it, yesterday! McConnell thinks he's the cunningest beast in the jungle, cornering his prey and cutting off every avenue of escape, but he's really not that bright, as you should have noticed by the fact that he's never passed a positive agenda item in his entire leadership career.

I don't know how Mitch is going to be defeated, but I didn't know how he was going to be defeated back in August—that was August, wasn't it?—in the fracas over the debt ceiling. In that case, in the last analysis, he defeated himself: he didn't have any plan at all, and Schumer and Pelosi had one.

And speaking of Schumer and Pelosi, they were the second surprise, coming up in the Times this afternoon, after the merry Democratic leaders had given some early-morning face time to Sheryl Gay Stolberg:
“This is really a stinkeroo,” Ms. Pelosi said Wednesday, referring to the repeal measure drafted by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. “I hope that when this is defeated, and hopefully that will be soon, the president will agree to going forward in a bipartisan way.”
"When", not "if". And the president, not the Majority Leader. Hmm.

And then there's yesterday's announcement that Senate Republicans have decided to go with a $1.5 trillion tax cut. Right now? And after months of bragging about how what they did with taxes was going to rationalize them, not cut them, and the "reform" of Medicaid was going to save government money. Are they holding this out to some Senators as a reward for voting for the health bill, or is it a next thing to hold out to Trump as an achievable "victory"?

I'm starting to go back to thinking they really don't know what they're doing and they're going to lose. They're crazed with two conflicting desperations: Trump's advent gives them a chance of getting everything they most long for, gigantic tax cuts and the destruction of Medicaid (if you look at the whole serious of Repeal-'n'-Replace bills, you can see it's Medicaid, not "Obamacare", that those people hate the most) in the narrowest window of time, and his preposterousness as president gives them a chance of losing everything, very soon, and they're really out of their minds between yearning and terror.

I think McConnell and his people are losing it. When they come up with an alternative to the bill Collins and Murkowsi and McCain couldn't live with and the alternative is even worse for the people of Maine and Alaska than the previous one and lose the vote of—Rand Paul, who really sounds halfway serious this time (he can't stand the failure to roll back the millionaires' taxes)—they're really floundering. Chris Christie is fucking against the latest iteration! Chuckles Grassley says,
Although President Donald Trump has thrown his support behind the Graham-Cassidy health care overhaul, Sen. Chuck Grassley thinks Republicans are one to two votes short of being able to pass the Obamacare replacement bill.
“And I don’t see those other one or two votes coming,” Grassley told Iowa reporters Wednesday morning. “I hope I’m wrong.”
More evidence from BooMan. Don't stop calling your Senators and representatives! But I think this is happening again. And Alexander and Murray will be back before Open Enrollment starts on November 1.

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