The Senate is pushing back its vote to kill the Affordable Care Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Saturday night, in order to wait until Republican Senator John McCain has recovered from surgery to remove a blood clot over his eye.
On Meet the Press on Sunday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said that the motion to bring the bill to the floor will go forward just as soon as McCain can stuff himself back into his suit. In order to proceed, the bill will require the support of 50 out of 52 GOP senators.
“We all wish John McCain a speedy recovery, and we need him in more ways than one,” Cornyn said. “Yes, I believe as soon as we have a full contingent of senators, we’ll have that vote.” The vote was originally supposed to take place before the July 4 recess, but was delayed when it became obvious it didn’t have the support to pass.
Asked what it says about the bill that simply getting it to the floor is contentious enough to depend on one senator, Cornyn responded that, “Health care is hard, and we know that. But we have no choice but to try to come to the rescue of the millions of people who are being failed as a result of the problems of Obamacare,” he said.
“This bill actually I think has gotten much better as a result of the discussions we’ve had amongst ourselves, and I think it’s something that once we agree to that we can sell to the American people as a better choice than the failures of Obamacare,” he added. Rather telling that Cornyn frames the discussion not on the merits of the bill itself, but as a matter of successfully selling it to the American people. Even he’s not trying to fool anybody.
The revised bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was released on Thursday. In many cases, it simply spot-treats specific issues in attempt to lure previously skeptical Republicans. Changes include the establishment of a $45 billion fund to battle opioid addiction, an extra $70 billion in state subsidies for low-income people, and the option for people to pay for insurance premiums using health savings accounts. Though it does retain some of the taxes that Obamacare levied on the wealthy, the revised bill still promises to gut Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. (Read a more comprehensive run-down of the bill here.)
Two Republican senators—Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky— have already said they will not support the motion that would move the bill to the floor. Still others—including Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio—have expressed concern about the legislation in its current form.
The Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix released a statement Saturday assuring...well, Cornyn, mostly...that McCain’s surgery was without incident. “The Senator is resting comfortably at home and is in good condition. His Mayo Clinic doctors report that the surgery went very well and he is in good spirits,” it said.
That said, McCain is not anymore gung-ho about the bill than many of his fellow Republicans. His state is one of 20 whose constituents have benefitted from expanded Medicaid, and he has openly worried about the shady, closed-door circumstances in which the bill was drafted. As he said in a statement last week:
“Have no doubt: Congress must replace Obamacare, which has hit Arizonans with some of the highest premium increases in the nation and left 14 of Arizona’s 15 counties with only one provider option on the exchanges this year.
“But if we are not able to reach a consensus, the Senate should return to regular order, hold hearings and receive input from senators of both parties, and produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to affordable and quality health care.”
If I were McCain, I’d stay put in that hospital as long as possible.