Do Not Discount Mitch McConnell and the Health Care Bill

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Analysis by Reporting San Diego

June 28, 2017 (San Diego) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the health care bill until after the July 4 recess. He is taking some political risks in allowing his members to go back home, where surely they will be peppered by constituents. However, only a fool will bet against McConnell.

He is a smooth operator that knows the Senate inside out. He is also quite good at keeping his conference disciplined. You don’t believe me? McConnell froze all kinds of action in the US Senate when he led the minority. While Harry Read was no slouch, he hit his head repeatedly on the shoals of Minority Leader McConnell.

Whatever his partisan motives are, or whoever is paying him, McConnell is likely the most effective Senate leader since Lyndon Baines Johnson. He knows how to create voting blocks and how to force his conference to vote his way. He is a master, and only fools would bet against him.

Many Progressives see the pulling of the bill as a small victory in this war. It is purely a strategic withdrawal, to come back later on with a full offensive. McConnell has less room to maneuver than Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had. Ryan could afford to lose most of the Tuesday Morning group to principled no votes or abstentions. McConnell’s room for error is two Senators. That’s it. He loses more than two and the bill will fail, since Democrats, so far, are not inclined to help.

We are not counting on all Democrats to stay united against this mean bill. Yes, McConnell is that good. This will also be a test to Minority Leader Chuck Schummer. who so far has not shown the will for the kind of maneuvers McConnell was willing to use while in the Minority. He has enough members in his conference to completely gum up the works if he chose to. McConnell did and got a lot of concessions from Democrats.

Yet, this will also be a test for McConnell. This bill is extremely unpopular. When 12 percent of the people support the bill, this could be an interesting conundrum. The party has been running against the Affordable Care Act for the last 7 years. However, drafting this in secret, and not holding hearings is hurting them.

If they pass it, this could cost them at the ballot box in 2018. This is the calculus from Democrats. They want the House and Senate, and they might be calculating that not voting with Republicans is a good idea. Why? The polls say that the ACA is now as popular as it has ever been.

There is more, the Senate Bill is different than the House bill. Partly because the Senate is reflecting some of the wishes of Americans. However, it is going against the wishes of 63 percent of Americans who want the Medicaid expansion to remain in place.

Enjoy the barbecues this July 4. Once the Senate comes back, we will see if McConnell is truly the modern incarnation of the Master of the Senate. I would not bet against him though. So far he has proven very adept at getting what he ultimately wants, from his conference, and his political opponents.


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