It may not be time to panic, but it makes sense to be concerned about the future of this country given the state of its government. Even as disastrous legislation to kill the Affordable Care Act was defeated in the Senate, the White House was convulsed by the open warfare being waged by rival factions in the Trump administration.
President Trump has served as the chief instigator for discord. He badgered the Senate to pass any bill to end Obamacare without caring what might be cobbled up to replace it. He belittled his attorney general and brought in a henchman to insult his chief of staff. Like the boss man caricature he portrayed on TV, Trump has hung the threat of dismissal over the head of anyone suspected of less than absolute loyalty.
But Trump’s bullying style had no impact on three Republican senators who ignored hints that retribution would be administered by his tea-party faithful to anyone who didn’t toe the line. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain broke ranks and voted with Democrats and independents Bernie Sanders and Angus King to defeat the so-called “skinny” repeal bill.
There was nothing skinny about the likely impact of the legislation. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would lead to 15 million Americans losing health coverage. Meanwhile, insurance companies warned that the bill’s repeal of Obamacare’s mandate that all individuals have coverage would deteriorate risk pools and lead to higher premiums.
None of that meant anything to McConnell, as he and Vice President Pence personally pressured Republican lawmakers to pass the flawed legislation, promising that it was only a vehicle to get the bill to a conference committee where Republican House members could help make it better.
But there was no guarantee that the conference would do anything other than usher the bill to full passage so Trump and his fellow Republicans could boast that Obamacare was dead.
McCain took to the floor Thursday to remind the senators of their criticism of President Obama for forcing his health bill through Congress. “We shouldn’t do the same with ours,” he said. “Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act.”
Apparently, only Collins and Murkowski took McCain’s words to heart. The debt they are owed for standing up for right rather than expedience cannot be calculated. Unfortunately, the nature of Washington politics thus far during the Trump regime suggests this won’t be the last time their determination will be tested. They will need help to prevail.
The president has a predilection for revenge preceded by humiliation. Rather than fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose recusal from the Russian election tampering investigation led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump prefers to insult Sessions, apparently hoping to goad him into resigning.
Instead of firing his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, which he finally did Friday, Trump hired a new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, whose tweets obliquely suggested Priebus was part of a swamp of White House leakers, which must be drained. Palace intrigue is fine for television’s Game of Thrones, but it’s not what America wants or needs in a president.