Healthcare Fail Spectacular

I am simply gobsmacked at the failure of the Republican Party to get an Obamacare repeal through the Senate, even with massive manipulation of the process which involved no public input or hearings, text released mere hours before the vote, a vote in the middle of the night, and use of the reconciliation process so it only required 50 votes (plus a tie-breaker from the VP).

Obviously John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are going to be blamed, but it is very important to note that Obamacare was passed in 2010, the same year the GOP won control of the House of Representatives, and the party took control of the Senate in 2014, which has meant three years of legislative control in which to have come up with a plan – literally any plan – to repeal Obamacare, which stands out as every Republican candidate for office has been yakking on about this for seven years.

Senate leadership of the party has not changed much – Mitch McConnell has been the GOP leader in the Senate since 2006. He is not new. This period of Obamacare repeal cannot be the first time he has had to think about what goes in an Obamacare repeal bill that requires 50 votes.

Since 2010, when the bill passed and Republicans began their uniform opposition to it, these people have represented Republicans in the Senate:

Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
John McCain (R-AZ)
John Boozeman (R-AR)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Dean Heller (R-NV) He has been there since 2011 appointed to replace John Ensign who resigned. That seat was won by a Republican in 2010 though.
Richard Burr (R-NC)
John Hoeven (R-ND)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
John Thune (R-SD)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Lama Alexander (R-TN)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
John Barasso (R-WY)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)

Why did I bother typing them out? To show you there was no surprise here. Of the 52 Republicans in the Senate, 33 of them have been there (or were elected in) 2010 when Obamacare repeal became the central GOP campaign issue. None of the new Republicans were a surprise for McConnell. Collins, McCain and Murkowski have all been there for longer than Obamacare has existed. Both McCain and Collins have been there since before McConnell became leader. We KNOW that Collins and Murkowski won’t vote for bills that defund Planned Parenthood. We KNOW McCain is a loose cannon and his vote depends largely who he aims anger at (which I think is the president this time). McConnell KNEW he could only lose three votes and he immediately pissed on two of them with the PP defunding.

Look at these DW Nominate ideology scores for members of the Senate in the previous Congress. Lower scores mean the senator is more liberal. Higher scores mean they are more conservative. There are two dimensions to this data which are theoretically economic and social. Healthcare intersects these: it is both expensive and important for the welfare of humanity. I have labelled the three GOP senators who voted no today, and drawn lines so you can see their scores more clearly (Murkowski is red, Collins is yellow, McCain is green).


It is quite clear that Collins, Murkowski and McCain are three of the chamber’s most moderate members – hell, on the second dimension Collins and McCain have lower scores than almost every Democrat (conceivably a function of the issues they voted on this Congress). And on the first dimension, Collins is way out in front with ¬†Murkowski second and McCain kind of in the lowest quartile.

The point I am making here is that McConnall CANNOT have been surprised by their votes, or what they wanted and needed in a bill. DW Nominate scores come from the roll call which means these are the positions that senators want their citizens to know they are taking.


In the last Congress (2015-2017) Republicans had control of both chambers and repealed Obamacare multiple times, knowing the president would veto it. There is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for not having ironed out wrinkles then. Considering hardly anything happened in the previous Congress there was time to hold hearings and put together the skeleton for what the GOP planned to do for the healthcare of Americans considering their seven year strong stance against Obamacare which is basically farting against the thunder of problems in the American healthcare system anyway, but happens to be better than both i) nothing and ii) a tax break for rich people dressed up as health reform.

In terms of significant legislation, this is piss easy compared to what tax reform will be like. I am not saying that it won’t happen, but I am saying it is a far heavier lift than taking one vote on something the party has been promising to do for ages, ably supported by its many interest groups, who, when it comes to taxes, are going to fragment like you just got to the end of a shrine in Zelda.

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 8.20.13 AM.png

Oh, there’s also the issue of the budget, and Collins and Murkowski are going to probably vote against PP defunding again.

Even under the best circumstances, legislating is bloody difficult. But when you have unified control and you have all been singing from the same songsheet for many years and multiple campaigns, this is pure and object failure. There were no surprises here, and yet the Republican Party tripped over its shoelaces.


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