On Monday, July 17, two Republican Senators announced that they could not support the repeal-and-replace plan then before the Senate regarding heath care and insurance, the so-called Trumpcare bill.
Mike Lee of Utah, in a statement, said that he had conferred with “trusted experts,” and with their advice had decided that he could not “support the current version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.”
At the same time, Jerry Moran of Kansas issued a different statement with the same bottom line. He, too, will not support the BCRA, and he wants the Senate to “start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions.”
There is at least a shade of difference there. Lee’s language left open the possibility that some new legislative tweak could bring him around to supporting a new variant of BCRA. But Moran’s call for a fresh start is more definitive.
The defection of Lee and Moran, added to the established opposition to BCRA by two other Republican Senators, Rand Paul (Ky) and Susan Collins (Me), meant that as a matter of simple arithmetic Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky) did not have the votes in his caucus to pass this legislation. Even a tweak that might satisfy Lee would not change this. Three hard “no’s” from within his caucus would remain, and that would still be enough.
Attention turned quickly to two ideas: (1) that the Republicans should press through a simple repeal, presumably to be followed by a ‘replace’ after further deliberations; or (2) that Republicans may have to find allies on the other side of the aisle, among the Democrats, thus giving a bipartisan cast to any resulting legislation.
By the afternoon of Tuesday, July 18, the numbers seemed to be against the first of those.
Left Wing View
From the left there is, on the one hand, a celebratory urge and on the other a sense that celebration might be premature. Jim Newall of Slate wrote Monday evening (in celebration mode) that “Jerry Moran, a typically reliable [Republican] vote, will go down as a legend.” But in more cautious mode, he also wrote that one cannot “write off McConnell just yet.”
Likewise, Brian Beutler wrote in The New Republic, also Monday evening, that it has “never looked so much like these achievements will survive” Republican control of both Houses and of the White House, as it does now. The “achievements” he had in mind were the expansion and guarantee of insurance coverage under President Obama’s signature legislation. They may survive, Beutler wrote, because “McConnell is simply more constrained than his counterpart, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and seems to lack the legislative berth he needs to send a bill to the White House.”
Yet for Beutler, too, celebration is tempered by caution. The achievements in question remain vulnerable to “intentional mismanagement and administrative sabotage.”
On twitter, though, the format doesn’t allow for such “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” subtleties. Senator Bernie Sanders (I – VT) tweeted simply Monday night, “This is a great victory for the millions who stood up and fought back. I congratulate everyone for their hard work.”
This is a great victory for the millions who stood up and fought back. I congratulate everyone for their hard work. https://t.co/sieen0V1Sa
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 18, 2017
By Tuesday, Christopher Spiro, a senior fellow at the left of center think tank Center of American Progress, was tweeting suggestions to the Democrats on how they can take advantage of the situation in a bipartisan spirit, “Call up Moran and give him some love,” was one suggestion:
Call up Moran and give him some love. Urge him to stay strong on the motion to proceed and to insist on a bipartisan process. https://t.co/inffU3rnh6
— Topher Spiro (@TopherSpiro) July 18, 2017
Right Wing View
On July 18, the National Review posted online an essay by Ramesh Ponnuru that takes what is for a conservative an unusually optimistic view of the disarray in Republican ranks. Punnuru, a senior editor at NR, writes that in recent decades “our political system has come to rely ever more heavily on strong presidential leadership,” and that the all-powerful chief executive is a problem, not a solution, so that Trump’s willingness to take a back seat and let the Republican Congressional leadership thrash things out among themselves is “salutary.”
But, he also notes, this valuable shift away from an overbearing chief executive comes with growing pains, it comes with “new obligations” for the majority party’s Congressional leadership, obligations that the leaders have not yet demonstrated their ability to satisfy.
This, again, is fairly subtle on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand analysis. And, on the right as on the left, the tweet format does not really allow for that. So instead one gets Mark Levin, a radio talk show host, tweeting that the Republicans-in-name-only who are scuttling repeal and/or replacement are “RINO liars.”
Or one finds Austin Petersen saying that “if the senate won’t repeal Obamacare then we should repeal and replace the senate.”
That, by the way, is a campaign ad as well as a tweet. Petersen has already announced that he is running to be the next U.S. Senator from Missouri, under the Republican banner, after a long period of activism within the Libertarian Party. The 2018 campaign, in Missouri well as around the country, is well underway.