Saturday, June 24, 2017

Death of the ACHA? Senatorial Politics

One of the less elevated reasons I started writing this blog was to get it on the record. “Do you remember, this is just what I said, just what I predicted?” How many times had I said that? Predicting is hard, especially about the future, said Yogi. Right. But I flatter myself to think that that's one thing I'm not bad at. And it just so happens that one of my foibles – yes, I have to say, it's a weakness – is the need to be recognized.

“Shenkin's smart!” Ahhhhh, music to my ears. Yes, it's a foible. But hey, I'm not a saint, God knows, and so do a lot of other people.

So, with the “blog of record” self-designation in mind, here's what I think is happening and will happen in the Senate vis-à-vis health care. I think the American Health Care Act – also known as the I Hate Children And Anyone Less Privileged Than I Am Act – is doomed. No way to square that circle. The moderates, such as they are, can't be brought along. Murkowski and Collins can't vote to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, the Right won't stand for abortion funding, and the whole thing is a time bomb for the Republicans if it were to be passed with so many becoming worse off, so those interested in power in the future – McConnell especially – don't really want it to pass. The tax-cutting aspects are a problem, but the rich will get something, don't worry about that, and getting something will be better than getting nothing, which was their alternative under the Dems. Also, even if they have not been way out in the open, the hospitals need that Federal money that comes in via Medicaid and subsidized private insurance. Not to mention the insurance companies. Not to mention the academic centers. Not to mention the jobs figures. So, it's a loser.

Given that prospect, imagine that you are Mitch McConnell. What would your objectives be? You would want to use the situation to strengthen your own power. You would want to show the party members that you tried as hard as you could to do it – promise kept. Then, you would want to help out each member of your Senate delegation in a way that made them more indebted to you. How would you do that?

You would make sure that each individual senator knew that you understood his or her individual self-interested situation. Dean Heller in Nevada, in deep trouble for re-election, which he probably will not achieve in any event. He can't lose all the votes he would by voting against the law that gives so much to so many. “Dean, I understand. You're going to have to vote against it. That's OK, I understand.” Think of the undertaker and the Godfather – someday, and that day may never come, I may need a favor, Dean ol' buddy.

To the Gang of Four on the Right: “Fellas, I understand who your voters are, and how they have to see you. Ted, you asshole, do what you have to do. You others, I understand how your voters have to see you. If it comes down to where I need you because it will actually pass, I'll call on you as a group to come in, but otherwise, you can vote against it as a group, if you want to. That includes you, too, Rand. But I'll let you all make your statements, and if we do pass it after all, then you can come in as a group and defend yourselves that way, and explain all you got by hanging tough.”

To the ladies on the middle (can't say Left with these people): “I understand that you have voters, and I understand that your gender might have some feelings about Planned Parenthood and all, and I know you have to do what you have to do. I don't know if the others can go for something that continues with PP – they have a lot of religious voters – and I don't know if they can spend all that money on Medicaid, it's a lot of money, but I'll try to get them to move. But if I can't, I'll protect you so that you are not the ones who alone push it down. We'll make sure that it loses by a lot and not a little, so you won't be primaried. I am hoping, though, that when the tax bill comes up, that you'll be flexible there.”

So, they will all owe Mitch for tending to their own vulnerabilities. And then when it comes to taxes, they will all owe him, and since tax-cutting gives more than it takes away, and since it's not obvious at the time to Joe Schmo that he's getting screwed, McConnell will wind up a winner.

So, my view: ACHA goes down to defeat, the Dems crow, the hard Right grouses, but it all comes out in the wash with filthy lucre and taxes.

You heard it here, with all the forecasting that's fit to print.  Or, I hardly need to mention, this analysis could be all wrong, AHCA could pass, compromises could be made in the end, in which case, of course, McConnell's stock would be higher than ever, with a great feat of legerdemain.

Budd Shenkin

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