John McCain provided a crucial vote to kill “skinny” repeal of Obamacare Thursday night, and he deserves credit for doing the right thing. But we need to talk about how much credit he’s getting—and who’s being overlooked. Because this:
Senate Republicans originally put together an all-male panel to kill Obamacare, shutting the six Republican women in the Senate out of the process. Then that group fell apart and the repeal bills, such as they were, were crafted in secret—still without input from the very women who were making clear that their votes would be hard to get.
Collins and Murkowski voted against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s series of poorly thought through, cruel bills from the beginning. Donald Trump’s interior secretary was dispatched to threaten Alaska’s energy industry over Murkowski’s vote. She and Collins withstood days if not weeks of pressure, and without them, McCain’s vote wouldn’t have been decisive. Let’s also not forget that McCain provided the crucial vote to get the Senate to the skinny repeal vote in the first place. And now the headlines are all about the night John McCain killed the GOP’s health-care fight, or say that McCain, two other GOP senators join Democrats to reject last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare. And the cable news channels (minus Fox) are oohing and aahing over him.
I get it. He was the vote that was in doubt. He was the guy who had already voted yes once before switching to no.
But it also matters that he’s a guy. If West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito had been the senator to switch her vote to no, she would not be getting the breathless coverage McCain is. And it’s not about cancer, either. Sen. Mazie Hirono traveled all the way from Hawaii with stage IV kidney cancer to vote no, but her commitment and courage got only the smallest fraction of attention that McCain did, even when his journey was to deny other people the health care he was receiving himself.
So yes, we are rightly celebrating that McCain did the right thing. But can we take a minute to credit the women who were there before him, taking the heat and making his big moment possible?