Last year in the early movements of the Trump administration, the GOP was working on its six-dozenth attempt to disassemble the Affordable Care Act, which had helped reduce the uninsured portion of America's population from 18% in 2010 to 10% in 2016.
The Republican draft bills between the House and Senate imagined robust tax cuts for high earners offset by cuts to insurance for poor kids and the elderly, along with the allowance of insurance plans that would pool together already-sick people, effectively circumventing the Obamacare protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. February townhalls nationwide were blazing.
After promising to repeal and replace the ACA simultaneously, Mr. Trump backpedaled his bluff, a procedural gimmick failed in the Senate and the seven year assault blown big by intimations of socialist apocalypse dwindled to a quiet try at assassination: the Skinny Repeal, a plan drawn up over lunch the same day of the vote, was Senate Majority Leader McConnell's promise to repeal the individual mandate at the mechanistic core of the ACA, which, the Congressional Budget Office estimated, would take the healthcare of 16 million Americans.
Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins promptly named themselves as two of the three 'no' votes needed to reject the bill.
It was July. Senator John McCain that same month had begun receiving treatment for brain cancer and from Arizona had loudly admonished his party to get back to "regular order," watching their repeal fits cascade from comprehensive and simultaneous, to tip the tower by its bottom brick.
A couple hours after midnight on July 28, a swampy Friday pre-dawn in Washington, Congressional staffers filled-in the Senate floor's back aisles to be there for the final tallying. The question on the table weighed one sixth of the American economy. Present were one hundred lawmakers, of good health and ill. Video shows Senators huddled in small groups, talking in governed voices on their respective halves of the high house's old chamber.
It wasn't obvious where McCain would come down. But those who noted the exit of Vice President Pence guessed there would be no use for a tie-breaking vote, that President Trump's call to Mr. McCain in the cloakroom a few moments earlier failed to purchase.
Senator McCain paced onto the floor, to everyone's notice. He stopped, with an arm stretched toward the legislative clerk, who had already read past his name on the ledger. Leader McConnell was opposite him, standing alone at the top of the floor key, arms crossed beneath a steepened chin. The clerk looked up at Mr. McCain and nodded his attention.
The Senator, whose family today announced that he'll no longer continue receiving treatment for the brain cancer he learned of in those months, closed his open waiting hand and pointed a thumb to the floor.
Maybe in the naivete of distance, I can't help but see a lot of John McCain in that image. Not everyone would look that way extending their voting hand. The cut of his figure is one of a man with torture in his shoulders. The isolation on that side of the Senate carpet of a man not unaccustomed to the torrent. The thumb to the floor of a man, albeit with whom I most often deeply disagree, who is ready to be persuaded of a better truth, were one to come along. That will remain one of the most powerful political images of my lifetime.
May that space in Arizona be a comfortable one for you and your family tonight, John.
Thank you for your service.
|The New York Times|
Notes & Sources:
1. Video of vote and analysis; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/07/28/an-oral-history-of-john-mccains-thumbs-down-vote-on-repealing-the-aca/?utm_term=.46227b65f2ea
2. Attempts to disassemble ACA*; https://www.newsweek.com/gop-health-care-bill-repeal-and-replace-70-failed-attempts-643832
3. Americans without health insurance, CDC Report; https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/earlyrelease201705.pdf
4. Trump, repeal and replace simultaneously; https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/as-i-have-always-said-trumps-ever-changing-position-on-health-care/535293/
5. The successive versions of AHCA, $800 billion cuts to Medicaid, background; https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/why-obamacare-repeal-failed/535119/
6. Image of vote; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/us/politics/obamacare-partial-repeal-senate-republicans-revolt.html