WASHINGTON — The cover of TIME magazine, for its February 27 issue, has an image of Donald Trump, with his hairpiece blown by a fan, and, as well, papers on his desk being blown away by the same fan. The title for the cover is “Nothing Here.” In that issue, Philip Elliott has a lead article detailing the extraordinary missteps that Trump has taken since he swaggered himself into the White House on January 20.
For many years, House Speaker Paul Ryan (who could have become our Vice-President, only that didn’t happen) has desperately wanted to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act — a law which made it possible for millions of uninsured Americans to receive badly needed health care.
So Ryan crafted his “American Health Care Act” to replace the ACA.
Given that some members of his House Republican Conference were much more interested in scoring political points by “simply” repealing the ACA than improving it, it was a heavy lift for Ryan to get his AHCA through the House on May 4, 217-213, the narrowest of margins. All 193 House Democrats sensibly voted against it; 20 Republicans (including Tea Party Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman) voted no after Ryan and his House leadership team covered their butts. An exuberant Trump (who had paid little attention to the details of Ryan’s bill) held a victory photo-op in the Rose Garden with Ryan & Co.
Next, it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s turn. And once again, Trump paid little attention to the details, leaving it to McConnell & Co. to get the job done with little coordination with Priebus & Co. at the White House.
So McConnell, whose Senate career has been based primarily on thwarting all President Obama’s every legislative priorities, met for weeks behind closed doors with twelve other white male Republican senators, and released his “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.” Again, Trump paid little attention to the details. McConnell, of course, only wants beleaguered American citizens to act against their own self-interest by voting for Republicans.
Both the “AHCA” and McConnellCare gutted Medicaid, and GOP senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and others, including Rob Portman (Ohio) raised objections. Senators Ted Cruz (TP-Texas), Mike Lee (TP-Utah), and Rand Paul (TP-Kentucky, and McConnell’s junior Republican colleague from the Bluegrass State), were hell-bent on repealing the ACA outright. Then GOP Sen. Jerry Moran (Kansas) put the nail in the coffin of McConnellCare by saying he would vote no.
Next, 80 year old Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) had surgery for a blood clot in Phoenix, and McConnell announced that no vote on repealing the ACA would be held until McCain could return to the Senate. (Just today we learned that McCain, a war hero, has brain cancer.)
As topnotch reporters John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett wrote in yesterday’s Politico, the failure of McConnell’s ACA repeal bill “tarnishes the Senate GOP leader's reputation as a [master] strategist." Things didn’t get easier for McConnell when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) questioned McConnell’s leadership by writing McConnellCare in secret.
As all this was happening, associate solitary reporter Melissa Smith, who covers Congress for us, darted into McConnell’s office, where the portentous senior senator from Kentucky was closeted with his junior colleague and Tea Party darling, Rand Paul.
“Rand,” McConnell began, “now I understand why Boehner quit so precipitously back in September of ’15. The Tea Partiers in his Conference were driving him nuts. Now, John is pulling in $400,000 a year for serving on the board of American Reynolds — you know, the cigarette maker.”
“I’m all in. I quit. You win, Rand. Today, I’m gonna assemble all the members of our Republican Senate Conference and announce that I’m resigning from the Senate. And I’m gonna tell them to make you their Majority Leader.”
Paul’s response was swift and to the point: “Whoopee! My daddykins will call me from Texas and he'll tell me, 'Son, this is the happiest day of my life! We're gonna make the United States of America a Libertarian paradise!'"