It’s the perfect storm. John McCain, the ‘Maverick’ who is in the twilight of his career and was just diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, comes back to save the day and keep Obamacare in place for the foreseeable future. Certainly McCain deserves credit for his final stance, but he also deserves blame for bringing us here in the first place.
This disastrous so called ‘skinny repeal’ bill, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated would have thrown 16 million people off health insurance by 2026, only came down to this dramatic 1:30 A.M. vote because McCain voted yes to advance the bill to debate. For those that haven’t followed all the twists and turns of the last few weeks, that vote to advance the bill came before there was even an actual bill to advance.
Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins
Unlike John McCain, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have been opposed to all three iterations of the GOP Obamacare replacement fiasco from the beginning. Murkowski even voted no on the motion in the face of Ryan Zinke, President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, threatening to hamstring Alaska’s economy if she didn’t support Obamacare repeal.
Collins, likewise, has taken a ton of heat for her stance. This including threats of violence, most notably from the Representative Blake Farenthold.
“If it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr style,” Farenthold told a local radio host in reference to Murkowski and Collins. Aaron Burr famously killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
Despite these attacks from their fellow Congressional members and threats from the President, Collins and Murkowski were steadfast in their opposition. They voted no on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Obamacare Reconciliation Act, and yesterday’s Skinny Repeal. These principled stands take real political conviction, much more than McCain’s last minute ‘save the day’ vote, as important as it was.
The third hero of the early morning vote was Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Like John McCain, Hirono was recently diagnosed with cancer. Back in May, Hirono announced that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. She has been in the hospital getting treatment, but she refused to miss this crucial vote, choosing to fly back to D.C. and oppose the measure. She has been one of the most vocal Democrats fighting against the GOP measure.
“Trumpcare would be a disaster to the American people, and we’re fighting it tooth and nail,” Senator Hirono said in June. “Tomorrow I’m going into surgery to remove the lesion I have on my rib, but I’m going to be back as quickly as I can to keep up the fight against this mean, ugly bill.”
And indeed she did, against the advice of her doctors. Over the last week Hirono has been using herself and John McCain as poster children of why access to healthcare is so important. It’s this conviction that many pundits speculate finally won over McCain’s conscience.
Had McCain not flown back for this vote, the result would have been the same. His vote would have been absent and the bill would have failed just as it did. If Hirono had stayed in the hospital for treatment, on the other hand, this bill would have passed and the GOP would be well on their way to kicking 16 million people off health insurance.
Again, it’s important to acknowledge John McCain’s principled vote, but he’s not the real hero here. The real heroes are the two GOP Senators who have fought on their convictions since the beginning, and the brave Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono for refusing to stay in the hospital and let the GOP strip health insurance from millions of Americans.