John McCain and Jeff Flake
John McCain and Jeff Flake (Photo by Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

We’re not out of the woods yet, but this is an impor­tant, pos­i­tive devel­op­ment:

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. ­– U.S. Sen­a­tor John McCain (R‑AZ) released the fol­low­ing state­ment today on health care reform:

“As I have repeat­ed­ly stressed, health care reform leg­is­la­tion ought to be the prod­uct of reg­u­lar order in the Sen­ate. Com­mit­tees of juris­dic­tion should mark up leg­is­la­tion with input from all com­mit­tee mem­bers, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amend­ment. That is the only way we might achieve bipar­ti­san con­sen­sus on last­ing reform, with­out which a pol­i­cy that affects one-fifth of our econ­o­my and every sin­gle Amer­i­can fam­i­ly will be sub­ject to rever­sal with every change of admin­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sion­al majority.

“I would con­sid­er sup­port­ing leg­is­la­tion sim­i­lar to that offered by my friends Sen­a­tors Gra­ham and Cas­sidy were it the prod­uct of exten­sive hear­ings, debate and amend­ment. But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of Sep­tem­ber 30th bud­get rec­on­cil­i­a­tion dead­line has hung over this entire process.

“We should not be con­tent to pass health care leg­is­la­tion on a par­ty-line basis, as Democ­rats did when they rammed [the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act] 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. The issue is too impor­tant, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the Amer­i­can peo­ple guess­ing from one elec­tion to the next whether and how they will acquire health insur­ance. A bill of this impact requires a bipar­ti­san approach.

“Sen­a­tors Alexan­der and Mur­ray have been nego­ti­at­ing in good faith to fix some of the prob­lems with [the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act]. But I fear that the prospect of one last attempt at a strict­ly Repub­li­can bill has left the impres­sion that their efforts can­not suc­ceed. I hope they will resume their work should this last attempt at a par­ti­san solu­tion fail.

“I can­not in good con­science vote for the Gra­ham-Cas­sidy pro­pos­al. I believe we could do bet­ter work­ing togeth­er, Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats, and have not yet real­ly tried. Nor could I sup­port it with­out know­ing how much it will cost, how it will affect insur­ance pre­mi­ums, and how many peo­ple will be helped or hurt by it. With­out a full CBO score, which won’t be avail­able by the end of the month, we won’t have reli­able answers to any of those questions.

“I take no plea­sure in announc­ing my oppo­si­tion. Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are act­ing con­sis­tent­ly with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the coun­try. So am I.

“I hope that in the months ahead, we can join with col­leagues on both sides of the aisle to arrive at a com­pro­mise solu­tion that is accept­able to most of us, and serves the inter­ests of Amer­i­cans as best we can.”

Sen­a­tor Rand Paul of Ken­tucky is also vocif­er­ous­ly opposed to Gra­ham-Cas­sidy, although for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Sen­a­tors Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkows­ki of Alas­ka have yet to stake out a for­mal posi­tion, but they are con­sid­ered to be like­ly no votes as well. Last time around, it was Murkows­ki and Collins who were alone in their oppo­si­tion until McCain joined them.

This time, McCain has decid­ed to announce his posi­tion in advance.

If Murkows­ki and Collins fol­low suit, Mitch McConnell will almost prob­a­bly opt to pull the plug on Gra­ham-Cas­sidy, and not even bring it up for a vote ahead of Sep­tem­ber 30th. There would be no point in doing so. It would only result in fur­ther embar­rass­ment, putting an excla­ma­tion point on the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s lat­est failed attempt to take away the health­care of mil­lions of people.

Collins is almost ready to com­mit to the same posi­tion:

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins all but said she would vote “no” on an Afford­able Care Act repeal bill on Fri­day morn­ing at an event in Portland.

“I’m lean­ing against the bill,” the Maine Repub­li­can said after list­ing a series of seri­ous defi­cien­cies in the Gra­ham-Cas­sidy repeal bill.

“I’m just try­ing to do what I believe is the right thing for the peo­ple of Maine,” said Collins, appear­ing at the Hol­i­day Inn By The Bay to give a speech about afford­able housing.

Lisa Murkows­ki, mean­while, has most­ly kept qui­et. Repub­li­cans have been try­ing to woo her by putting sweet­en­ers into the bill to ease its destruc­tive impact on Alas­ka. But Murkows­ki has remained noncommittal.

Wash­ing­ton State’s own Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, the rank­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of the Sen­ate HELP Com­mit­tee, was quick to thank McCain and express her enthu­si­asm for resum­ing her work with Lamar Alexander.

“I agree with Sen­a­tor McCain that the right way to get things done in the Sen­ate— espe­cial­ly on an issue as impor­tant to fam­i­lies as their health care — is through reg­u­lar order and work­ing togeth­er to find com­mon ground,” said Mur­ray in a state­ment. “I’m still at the table ready to keep work­ing, and I remain con­fi­dent that we can reach a bipar­ti­san agree­ment as soon as this lat­est par­ti­san approach by Repub­li­can lead­ers is final­ly set aside.”

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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