Dragging Sen. John McCain out of the hospital to fly 2,000 miles and cast a vote to remove healthcare from 22 million people is an amazingly apt metaphor for the whole Republican ethic. That McCain is a yes vote on Trumpcare—in whatever form it might end up, and we don’t know that yet because it’s still a big secret even though they’re voting to move forward on it—shows what’s left of principle among Republicans. Nothing.
“Republican health care bill” is all we know. After years of complaints about the process Democrats used to pass Obamacare, Republican senators intend to open debate without a single hearing, without a single markup, and without clear knowledge of what they’ll be voting on.
Republicans spent time Monday night defending that process. GOP leadership member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said it was “absolutely” appropriate for Republicans to proceed, even without knowing the effects of a key part of their bill and whether it will take 60 votes to pass. When HuffPost asked Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) if the process was really better than that used by Democrats to pass Obamacare, Corker said: “We’ll see.” And Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), answering the same question, said he would just like to see a bill passed.
The plan was for Republicans to vote Tuesday afternoon on a motion to proceed to the House-passed legislation. If that motion passes, Republicans could then put up amendments to replace that measure entirely. A repeal-only bill, a revised replacement bill, and legislation to give states the power to decide Obamacare all were expected to get a vote.
These amendments haven’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, won’t be scored by it. Not before the votes. The basics that were already there need substantial revision under Senate budget rules, according to the Senate parliamentarian. Or Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blows up the rest of the Senate norms and ask his senators to overrule her. At this rate, they’ll happily follow along with him. What this means is that the Senate won’t know until it has voted what it has done to American health care.
Major legislation affecting millions and millions of American lives has never been handled like this—with no hearings, no involvement or input from the opposition party, no input from the groups representing the victims of the legislation. It’s the legislative equivalent of what Donald Trump is doing to the executive branch.