Rand Paul and John McCain Might Have Killed the GOP's Obamacare Repeal Bill

Paul says he won't be swayed by Trump's threats. "I'm a big boy."


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and John McCain, R-Ariz., will vote against the latest Republican-led effort to repeal parts of Obamacare, likely killing any slim chance that the proposal had of reaching the necessary 50 votes in the Senate.

Paul told the Associated Press he plans to vote against the Graham-Cassidy bill because it does not do enough to repeal Obamacare's regulations and taxes.

McCain, in a statement issued later Friday, said he would not vote for the bill because he disagreed with the procedural shortcuts Republicans were taking to get the bill to the floor without committee hearings and the opportunity for amendments.

McCain, who cast the deciding vote against the Senate's so-called "skinny repeal" bill in July over similar concerns about Senate GOP leaders abandoning "regular order," said he would consider voting for the Graham-Cassidy bill "were it the product of extensive hearings, debate, and amendments" and only after getting a full CBO score of the bill, something that won't be available before the end of the month.

"I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal," McCain said Friday. "We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do."

By themselves, Paul and McCain would not be enough to sink the GOP health care bill. But at least two other Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine—are widely believed to be "no" votes on the bill. Collins confirmed Friday to the Associated Press that she's leaning against the bill.

President Donald Trump on Friday threatened Republicans—and Paul in particular—who were considering voting against the bill. He said those who refused to support the Graham-Cassidy bill in the Senate "will forever…be known as 'the Republican who saved Obamacare'"

In the tweet, Trump specifically identified Paul, who has so far been the only Republican to go on the record as opposing Graham-Cassidy, though at least two other Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine—are widely believed to be "no" votes on the bill. Murkowski and Collins, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voted against the so-called "skinny repeal" bill in July.

Trump's threats have nothing to do with the policy of the bill, and the White House is only interested in a political win, Paul told the AP.

Paul's assessment of the situation seems pretty accurate. Trump has never indicated much of an interest in the policy aspects of the health care debate that has raged on Capitol Hill since March, though he did quickly organize a Rose Garden press conference to celebrate the House's passage of an earlier Obamacare repeal bill. A lack of White House engagement was widely noted in the wake of the "skinny repeal" bill's embarrassing failure in July, but—aside from some bluster on Twitter—neither the president nor his top health officials have been particularly active in selling the Graham-Cassidy bill to potentially recalcitrant Republicans this week.

Indeed, even Republicans in the Senate who said they would vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill appeared this week to be having a difficult time explaining the merits of it. A vote on the bill is scheduled for next week, but that timeline is dictated more by the ticking clock than by any broad agreement that Graham-Cassidy is a good bill. Republicans only have until September 30 to pass a health care bill using the reconciliation process. After that a major rewrite of Obamacare will require 60 votes and therefore must have Democratic support.

Paul's and McCain's opposition creates some difficult math for GOP leaders. That's why Republicans, as IJR's Haley Byrd reported yesterday, have dangled a carrot in front of Murkowski. In exchange for voting to scrap parts of Obamacare, her home state of Alaska will be allowed to keep Obamacare. It's a blatantly political move to buy votes (the same kind of move that Republicans denounced when it was used to help pass Obamacare in the first place), and Paul is right to recognize it as such, which he did in his interview with the AP.

As for Trump's promise to attack him in future political campaigns if he votes against the bill?

"I'm a big boy," says Paul.

NEXT: Does the Colorado River Have Rights?

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  1. “We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did”

    Losing with honor, that’s why he’s the media’s favorite republican.

    1. He’s very good at phrasing things in an honorable way. Claims to needing bipartisanship though is just him giving an excuse that plays good in the media.

      1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

        This is what I do…

    2. what’s the point of them being in power anyway? Republicans always run scared. When Democrats are in power they cram through their agenda, knowing it won’t matter if they lose power since the GOP will do nothing about it.

      1. Democratic voters say the same thing, but in reverse….seems no one actually likes the people they vote for.

      2. How could the GOP fail to have a plan after 7 years?
        As far as I can see, their only plan is destruction of the status quo, which seems likely to make rates unaffordable for those with pre-existing health issues, and those between ages of 55-67.
        This seems to be unavoidable, basic economics that can’t be ignored. Had the GOP passed this, it seems they would have paid for this with the Senate.

        1. We don’t need a plan. We already have one. it is called Obamacare. Forget the fact that it was supposed to reduce premiums. It has increased my wife’s by 100%, in three years! The failure is completely the Democrats’ baby! Let them explain the problems and see if they can fix it! They won’t!

    3. This part was even better: “If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do.”

      So instead you prefer to extend the duration of the democrats’ victory, and have no victory at all for “your” side?

      McCain’s imminent retirement basically means he can stop faking it and vote his conscience again as the centrist democrat he’s always been.

      1. Since it will collapse on its own, it’s the victory where you win the battle and lose the war. That is the kind of victory you want your opponent to have.

        1. “Might” collapse on its own you mean. A victory in the hand being forfeited with nothing in return, based on a prediction of the future by people who have a shockingly bad track record of making predictions. or understanding the public at all outside their little urban/beltway worlds. The same mindset that afflicts so many reason writers by the way.

      2. There would be no victory if the plan is as much a failure as Obamacare is going to be! This is an example of how once something is in government, it is hard to get rid of it!

    4. I gotta say I agree with him on that. He doesn’t have the slightest idea of what he actually wants to accomplish re healthcare – but there is something to be said for taking this issue out of pure party politics. Cuz if it stays in party politics, then it is gonna be like abortion and DC will be screwing with it for the next 50 years with no resolution.

      Course I’d feel more comfortable if the issue was outside party politics – but every incumbent critter dropped dead tomorrow so at least there would be a slim possibility that normal people would be elected instead.

      1. What you are missing here is that if the GOP plan had passed, it would have put it on the states to do the innovations. That itself would have reduced a lot of future conflict. But like abortion, this is now effectively nationalized.

    5. He’s the media’s favorite Republican because war makes tor great TV, as do his petty disputes with his own party that are almost always over personal issues rather than principles (because he has none, other than believing war is great)

    6. Cucktarians, our moment to fail nobly is upon us!

      Obamacare, Now and Forever! Muh principles!

  2. Republicans were taking to get the bill to the floor without committee hearings and the opportunity for amendments.

    That honestly sounds like a good thing to me. At least without amendments, as it sounds like a way to avoid more pork. Though, this particular bill I do not know enough to make an opinion.

    1. All bills should run that way.

    2. Pretty much my reaction.

      I agree with McCain that all necessary floor debate should be conducted, and everyone should have time to read the bill and know what’s in it.

      But fuck his committees. Fuck the shit out of all the committees.

    3. Don’t feel bad. Your Senators plan to vote on it without knowing enough to have an opinion, and if it passes, President Trump will sign it without knowing anything about it other than it gets rid of the Obama name.

      Many years ago, there was a political party called the “Know Nothings.” ( By a strange coincidence, they too were anti-immigrant, and were quite similar to today’s GOP.

      So, in the most recent Presidential election, the Know Nothings were elected by the know nothings.

  3. McCain said Friday. “We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do.”

    How is the Democrat victory ‘short lived’ when you have absolutely 100% failed to repeal it as promised?

    1. It’s also interesting, because all of this avoids him having to make ANY statement on the bill itself. His stated reasoning is entirely outside of the bill itself, which means he can save face in many different groups.

    2. I’m guessing he was referring to the Democrats’ political dominance (large majority in the House, 60 votes in the Senate, presidency) at that time? They quickly lost their House majority as well as many seats in the Senate, and within a few years the GOP took back the Senate and the presidency, not to mention a bunch of gains at the state level.

      1. Pretty sure he means the bill itself. His reference to political wind-shifting implies he expects Republicans will lose their majority sooner or later, but he wants a bipartisan bill that would still survive despite democrats being in power. In other words he wants to pass legislation democrats like… as always.

    3. If either party passed a bill on party lines that actually worked for all Americans, it would not be short-lived. If Obamacare actually worked, there would be no debate right now.

  4. Let the thing die on it’s own…..sadly I smell billions thrown at more subsidies instead.

  5. So, Obamacare is permanent now. I’m always amazed at how hypocritical the people who advocate incrementalism are.

    1. It’s tough because I think letting it implode on its own is the only way you can possibly move us towards something approximating a free market (as in more free than it was before Obamacare). It’s hard to repeal welfare programs, or even just keep costs under control. But the opportunists on the left might also be able to swoop in to make the argument for single payer, saying that Obamacare failed because it attempted a compromise between the free market and socialism, and this time we shouldn’t compromise

      1. There will be no implosion. Congress will bail out the system. They’ll have no choice. Noted healthcare expert, Jimmy Kimmel, will rail against Congress if they don’t bail out the system.

        This was it. No more repeal. It’s over. Cocktail parties are safe, though

      2. Single-payer will probably collapse even faster. See ILLINOIS for an example of not getting paid by government.

    2. No, because the Democrats will quickly go on the offensive with MediSomething-For-All, and #45 will sign any ham sandwich of a health care bill put in front of him.

  6. What the hell is wrong with Republicans? They all have beaten dog syndrome. They act as if getting cheers from Democrats matter, as if Democrats gave a crap about what any of them thought when they were in power.

  7. “I’m a big boy!”
    And when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

  8. Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as “the Republican who saved ObamaCare.”

    Alternatively, “the Republican who saved the Republican Party from owning the ACA disaster.”

    1. There will be no ACA disaster. It will be bailed out. If they couldn’t muster enough votes to completely repeal it, how are they going to muster the votes to not bail it out?

      1. Every bailout will come with an increase in premiums. Even a millennial will give up on the damned thing.

  9. GOP had a chance, given 2014 and 2016 races to have at least 55 Senators now. May have 55 or 56 after 2018 given the vulnerable Dem seats up for election.

    So why is this the” last chance?”

  10. The Republicans are too scared or too stupid to do a straight repeal.

  11. I want ObamaCare repealed but this bill barely does that, so I support Rand Paul on this.

    John McCain is just being a pain in the ass because he’s not getting the USA into war with EVERYONE.

    1. He embroils in struggles abroad with such honor and civility though.

  12. This is where I like Rand’s stance more than Justin Amash’s. Justin’s threshold is “Will this make us more free?”, which is why he voted for the House bill, even though he didn’t think it was nearly good enough. Rand’s threshold seems to be a bit higher, maybe because he has more leverage? I don’t know.

    1. I love Amash but I wonder if he just got scared by Trump’s intimidation tactics

    2. Good enough? Like it was a choice between this bill & something better? The choice is between this bill & 0. Pass the danged bill! You can always try later for something better.

    3. This is where I like Rand’s stance more than Justin Amash’s. Justin’s threshold is “Will this make us more free?”

      Justin is the adult in the room.

      Voting is between alternatives. Rand and McCain just voted for Obamacare.

  13. In one sense, McCain seems to have a principled reason for rejecting the bill. He wants health care to be done in a bipartisan fashion, as do I. But in another sense, it’s also completely dishonest. Democrats have demonstrated no interest in bipartisanship under this President, nor did they demonstrate when they passed the ACA. The Democrats idea of bipartisanship is a plan that covers everyone and everything no matter the cost i.e. Bernie’s plan. McCain surely knows this, so I see his response more as virtue-signaling than anything else. Also, McCain has not once explained what a bipartisan bill would look like. I seem to remember his health plan when he ran in 2008 was to offer refundable tax credits, which were in previous health care bills that he has since rejected. But those who always complain about the lack of bipartisanship should have the wherewithal to describe what their own idea plan would look like.

    1. McCain has no principles at all. He’s petty and that’s the source of almost all of his reputation as a “maverick”. He’s just an asshole who likes war a lot. It’s telling that the left is holding him up as nostalgia for the days when Republicans “weren’t so bad”

    2. Democrats are working with the president as we speak because Republicans can’t get any shit done because they are stupid and don’t believe in governing. “Chuck and Nancy,” as it were, have shown more bipartisanship in the last month than Mitch McConnell did in 8 years, just as he promised on inauguration day 2009.

  14. I find it funny when any of my liberal friends talk about someone who is not insured. I love reminding them that the person is in violation of the law, a law which they love enough to defend.

    1. Do they tell you that you’re lying?

    2. Being uninsured is not against the law. You might owe money to the IRS, however. Which they can only collect if you have a refund coming at tax time (or by asking nicely).

    3. Uh no. At worst they are paying the “tax” for not having coverage.

  15. Congratulations to the GOP for having four (three?) sane Senators out of 52. That actually is progress.

  16. RE: Rand Paul and John McCain Might Have Killed the GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Bill
    Paul says he won’t be swayed by Trump’s threats. “I’m a big boy.”

    Oh, good!
    Now we can still enjoy the misery of Obamacare while simultaneously enjoy the misery Republicancare will give us.
    Won’t life be wonderful?

    1. 20 years after the revolution, maybe.
      Depends on California suffering great destruction in LA and SF during the fighting.

  17. When will you stupid socialists wake the heck up!!! How much worse does health-care have to get? You’ve been progressively socializing health-care for over a decade always flapping your yaps about the next FIX-IT-ALL legislation and yet somehow every year after each progression of FIX-IT-ALL legislation; it gets WORSE, and WORSE, and WORSE. First the bums couldn’t afford it, then those in poverty couldn’t afford it, then the poor couldn’t afford it, then the lower-income couldn’t afford it, then the middle-class couldn’t afford it, NOW; You have to be a bloody millionaire to afford it!!!!!!!! Face it – Your FIX-IT-ALL legislation DOES NOT WORK – AT ALL. NEVER HAS ON ANYTHING AND NEVER WILL.

  18. Only a clean (non-replace) version of the RepealOCare bill can succeed before the 30th, after that, we are stuck with it till it explodes into a national emergency…which lets be honest, wouldnt be too far out.

  19. It is interesting that no reputable medical group supports this bill and that no Republican Senator will defend it on its merits. Even the notoriously fact challenged WH is urging a vote, not because it is a good bill but because it will remove the hated Obamacare from the public discourse. If Obamacare is supposedly so terrible and ready to self-distruct as the Republicans claim, why would they consider offering it to Alaska to get the Senator’s vote? The whole thing is an exercise in blatant politics with absolutely no concern for constituents who haven’t drunk the Kool Aid.

  20. Groundhog day redux:

    Republicans vow to repeal and replace Obamacare Republicans posing as libertarians get boners
    Drumpf signals end of nightmare covers bases by rejecting a bill they have not seen, because rumors
    Some Republicans agree, and come up with libertarian Utopia of free markets
    One of the Republicans backs out
    Some boners turn to hate boners
    Bill collapses strokes everyone to climax

    Then, repeat

  21. When the Republitards fail, it is always a sad and pathetic thing. It’s, ike that when they succeed, too, but also when they fail.

  22. Seems poetic. God’s Own Prohibitionists (aka the Senior Antisex League) went to great lengths to cripple the original socialized medicine bill. In fact, it was Republicans who filled the NY Times (08FEB1914) with lurid tales of bulletproof “cocaine negroes” running berserk right before the Harrison Tax Act prohibited mail-order snowbird feed. Mass-indictment of libertarian-minded physicians crushed all resistance, fostered collaboration, and anointed the ignorant brutality with essence of Sanction of the Victim.

    1. Socialism will really work this time! Another 100 million corpses, and we’ll be good! Honest!

  23. Point of grammar: The post title should read “May Have Killed,” not “Might Have Killed.” “May have” indicates possibility, but “might have” indicates a hypothetical contrary to fact.

    1. An astute observation, but if the possibility itself is preconditioned on some proposition, and that proposition is not a highly probable fact, then “might” could be appropriate. Think of it as “possibility squared”.

  24. Rand Paul has set himself up to be primaried as no-boy. His all or nothing approach or maybe a his way only approach while a grand display of being tough on the issues won’t work all the time in the legislature.

  25. Wow… Republicans have really screwed up if Graham and Cassidy are the ones forwarding a major bill. The R’s are so inept that one of the biggest RINO’s in the senate is the one trying to repeal Obamacare? Rand’s objection to all of the efforts so far have been principled and necessary to try to draw them towards a real solution. I would like him to bite the bullet eventually and vote for a tolerable option rather than think he can swing the R’s and a D or 2 in a sensible direction. I don’t know how Murkowski, Collins, Graham, and McCain are still considered republicans when they consistently fight against them while favoring big government.
    All these idiots had to do was pass a clean repeal bill. It would have been fine and even reasonable to have it take 2 years before everything in Obamacare was phased out. On the tail of that repeal is where they should be building what the “replace” might be instead of trying to do both in a single bill.

  26. Repeal is a word with a meaning. The bill opposed by whats his name is not a repeal.
    The fascists have won. Health care, and healthcare insurance will be under government control forever. Now we are “just negotiating the details” as the old joke goes.

  27. Paul told the Associated Press he plans to vote against the Graham-Cassidy bill because it does not do enough to repeal Obamacare’s regulations and taxes.

    Obamacare Now and Forever! Because the alternative doesn’t “do enough”! Muh principles!

    This Libertarian Moment brought to you by Rand Paul, to remind you why libertarians are not allowed to have nice things, like power.

  28. McCain is right about one thing: that it is unpalatable to do this with no input from the Democrats (though their refusal to be involved with anything that undoes obamacare is largely their own fault.) But a guy who ate maggots for a few years as a POW should be able to muster the gumption to get past his misgivings.

    The real problem is the GOP’s quixotic insistence on “repeal and replace.” Just repeal the focking thing as you have promised for seven years, on a strict party-line vote of need be. You can get all snuggly with the Democrats and make the “replace” part bipartisan if you want LATER.

  29. Can Republicans just create a bill that literally says nothing other than, “Obamacare is hearby officially repealed,” and go ahead and pass the damn thing. It won’t mean anything. It won’t accomplish anything or change anything. But, then the republicans can pat themselves on the back and say the repealed obamacare. Then, maybe they can spend the next 8 years trying to come up with some actual ideas regarding what to do with healthcare.

    Right now, they’re just taking turns shitting on pieces of paper and trying to pass it off as an obamacare repeal bill.

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