Johnson Suggests McCain’s Brain Tumor Affected His Health Care Vote – but Walks Back Statement

One senator suggested that John McCain’s brain tumor may have been a factor in his July vote against Obamacare repeal – remarks that he walked back just a day later. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told a radio host on Tuesday that McCain’s cancer, combined with the late night of debate and voting may have affected the Arizona Republican’s judgment.

“Again, I’m not going to speak for John McCain — he has a brain tumor right now — that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in,” Johnson said on AM560 “Chicago’s Morning Answer.”

Seemingly shocked, a radio host responded “really?” to Johnson’s comments and asked if he really believed McCain’s brain tumor might have factored into his judgment.

“Again, I-I-I don’t know exactly what — we really thought — and again I don’t want speak for any senator,” Johnson responded. “I really thought John was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1, 1:30, he voted no. So you have talk to John in terms what was on his mind.”

A McCain spokesperson called Johnson’s remarks “bizarre and unfortunate,” and by Wednesday, Johnson was backtracking, stating that he was, “disappointed I didn’t more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through.”

He elaborated on CNN on Thursday when he told host Chris Cuomo:

 “I was just expressing sympathy for his condition. Again, I’ve got the greatest respect for John McCain. He’s not impaired in any way, shape or form.”

Johnson said he has reached out to McCain and hoped to speak with him soon.

McCain made a return to the Senate specifically to vote on Obamacare repeal after surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye, which led to the brain tumor diagnosis.

Was Johnson simply not artful in his remarks, or did he really believe that McCain’s judgment is clouded by his condition? It’s hard to say, but I’ll bet the first meeting between the two following this incident will be pretty awkward.

McConnell Criticized For Pelosi-Like Tactics On Health Bill

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing questions about his leadership after the Obamacare repeal debacle. Many Republican senators are criticizing McConnell’s strategy of crafting the bill in secret without input from members of the GOP caucus.

Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a consistent no vote on health care reform, said that she was often in the dark about what the most current version of the bill contained and lamented that she didn’t have time to study the draft legislation before voting.

In a situation reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi’s statement that Congress needed to vote on Obamacare to see what was in it, Murkowski told The Hill that, under McConnell, it was like “It’s 10 o’clock and we’re going to vote on it in two hours, what do you think, gang?”

John McCain (R-Ariz.), who cast the deciding vote to kill the healthcare bill, cited the secrecy surrounding the drafting of the bill as a reason to vote against it. McCain said in a statement, “We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.”

Other senators agreed with Murkowski’s criticism of the closed-door drafting of the legislation. In June, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said in a Facebook video, “Even though I’ve been a member of this working group among Senate Republicans assigned to help narrow some of the focus of this, I haven’t seen the bill.”

“And it has become increasingly apparent in the last few days that even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us,” Lee continued. “It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate.”

Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) went further a few weeks later. After a report by the Washington Post that McConnell told moderate Republicans that Medicaid cuts in the bill would not happen because they are so far into the future, Johnson told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that McConnell’s comments were a “breach of trust.”

Even without arousing the anger and suspicion of Republican senators, there was always a narrow window to pass an Obamacare reform bill. The Republican majority of only two votes meant that McConnell “needed to pitch a perfect game,” one senator told The Hill. “Unfortunately, he pitched a two-hitter,” the senator continued.

The criticism doesn’t mean that McConnell’s leadership will be challenged anytime soon. No Republicans are stepping up to contest the Kentucky Republican’s position at the helm of the Senate. As Republican failures mount, that could change.

It is widely expected that the next step for the GOP is to tackle tax reform, an issue that faces many of the same challenges as healthcare reform. If Republicans use the budget reconciliation to avoid a Democrat filibuster, permanent changes would have to be scored as not adding to the deficit by the Congressional Budget Office. As with the healthcare bill, Republican moderates will be under intense pressure from the media and Democrats and it will only take three Republican defections to kill the bill since no Democrats are expected to vote yes.

After six months of stinging defeats in Congress, Republicans badly need a legislative victory to shore up the conservative base. Republican voters are angry at what they see as a betrayal of one of the party’s core promises. If Republicans can show no results from their majorities in both houses of Congress, Republican voters may stay home in November 2018. That could imperil McConnell’s position as majority leader even more surely than a revolt among Republican senators.

The Skinny On The Failure of Skinny Repeal


The last-ditch Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the so-called “Skinny Repeal,” went down in flames last night as expected. In truth, the Obamacare repeal effort has been dead for quite some time. The more recent repeal efforts represent the hopeless, zombie-like staggering of the GOP towards its goal of almost a decade.

It has been obvious for months that the repeal effort was doomed to failure. As soon as the dust settled from the election, we knew that the GOP would have less than the 60-vote majority required for cloture on a full repeal of the ACA.

With “repeal-and-replace” out the window, Republican leaders shifted to a reform model. The effort immediately drew fire from both wings of the Republican Party. A quartet of moderates from Medicaid expansion states lined up to oppose anything that threatened the Medicaid payouts. With only a two-vote majority in the Senate, this would have been enough to kill the reform bill, but conservatives also lined up to oppose the bill because it fell short of full repeal, which was already a mathematical impossibility.

Conservatives such as Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) were eventually won over to support the compromise reform effort. Moderates Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Corey Gardner (R-Col.) also dropped their opposition to the bill.

The Republican “nays” who joined every Democrat in voting against the Skinny Repeal were two of the usual suspects, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The third was GOP maverick John McCain (R-Ariz.) who explained his vote against the “shell of a bill” by arguing in a statement  that the bill, written in secret, wouldn’t actually improve the health insurance crisis gripping much of the country.

McCain will be pilloried for his vote, but to some extent he was right. No one, not even those who voted for it, think Skinny Repeal was a good bill. As Phillip Klein of the Washington Examiner described, the bill left the regulatory framework of Obamacare in place while eliminating the individual mandate. The result would most likely have been to increase the Obamacare death spiral rather than fixing it.
The worst part is that Collins and Murkowski could not even be persuaded to join their colleagues in such a watered-down bill. One has to wonder exactly what kind of health care bill, if any, that the pair would give their assent to.
Throughout the entire process, President Trump, a man who has repeatedly said that he wants universal healthcare, has been mostly AWOL. While Congress debated and dithered, the president spent his time tweeting and hurling insults at Jeff Sessions. To the surprise of few, this approach failed to swing votes to support the bill. In spite of the president’s alleged prowess at deal-making, his main role in the legislative process was to threaten to support a primary challenge against Nevada senator, Dean Heller.
At this point, Republicans have two choices. The first is to offer some concessions to Democrats to craft a bill with broader support. Such tactics will fall short of full repeal, but may help to fix at least some of Obamacare’s problems. It might even convince Collins and Murkowski to vote “yes.” Who knows?
The other alternative is to harden the party’s divisions with another of the circular firing squads so common in the wake of GOP defeats (and victories as well, for that matter). That will mean that Obamacare remains fully intact while Republicans wait on voters to grant them a supermajority (plus two more to offset Collins and Murkowski). In the meantime, Americans will suffer under Obamacare’s high premiums, few choices and the individual mandate. Never mind that voters are unlikely to give Republicans more power if they can’t get anything done with the power that they already have.
Some will say that Democrats win when Republicans offer a compromise, but it is the second scenario where Democrats really win. Obamacare will remain in place for the foreseeable future and Barack Obama’s legacy will be secure.
What most voters really want is for the two parties to work together to solve problems. Unfortunately, the current model has the country lurching from one-party rule to stalemate and back again as each party plays to its base and ignores moderates and independents. If neither party is willing to work with the other to get things done for the good of the country, then voters should consider firing them both.

BREAKING: McConnell Calls For Repeal

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has abandoned the Republican health care bill and is calling for full repeal of Obamacare. The bill has been considered dead following the decision of Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and others to vote “no.”

McConnell said, “It is now apparent” that the repeal and replace effort will not be successful. The new plan is to hold a vote on repealing Obamacare with two-year delay.

The core problem for Republicans was the decision of a number of moderate Republicans to demand a phaseout of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. It remains to be seen if these senators will vote for a simple repeal bill.





Cruz-Lee Provision Is Reportedly In New Health Bill Draft

As Republicans scramble to find enough Senate votes to keep their health care reform effort alive, there are reports that the most current draft of the bill will contain a provision written by Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that is popular with conservatives. Axios cites three sources familiar with the bill who say that the proposal of the two conservatives to allow a liberalization of health policy requirements is part of the bill at least for the time being.

Under the Consumer Freedom Protection option, health insurance companies that sell policies that are compliant with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act will be allowed to sell noncompliant policies as well. The ability to buy noncompliant policies should help consumers find lower cost health insurance.

The ACA mandates “essential health benefits” that must be included in health insurance policies. These requirements often include coverages that consumers may not want, need or can afford. The requirement to provide these coverages in all plans drives up costs and puts insurance out of reach for many consumers.

Critics of the provision say that healthy consumers will choose the lower cost noncompliant plans while those who are sick will likely buy the more expensive compliant plans. They argue that this will contribute to the death cycle of Obamacare and raise the cost of insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. These costs would be passed along to the federal government through insurance subsidies.

Over the past few months, the GOP reform effort has been losing support from both the center and the right. Republican moderates oppose the bill because of its phase out of the Medicaid expansion while conservatives argue that the bill does not go far enough in repealing and replacing Obamacare. Inclusion of the Cruz-Lee provision may have the effect of winning back the votes of some members of the conservative wing of the party.

The Axios report also gives several other details about the current version of the bill. The new version increases the amount of money for states to stabilize their health markets and cover pre-existing condition to more than $170 billion. It also keeps two of the Obamacare tax increases on wealthy families. Other new provisions allow consumers to pay insurance premiums with money from health savings accounts that receives favorable tax treatment and allow people receiving ACA insurance subsidies to buy lower cost insurance policies that provide only catastrophic coverage.

The laws of supply and demand dictate that as prices fall, demand will increase as more people can afford the product. As the price of health insurance decreases, more people will decide that insurance protection is worth the cost.

Republicans had planned to vote on the bill before the Independence Day recess, but delayed the vote due to opposition from Republican senators. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he hopes to bring the bill to a vote next week.

Sasse, Paul, and Trump Call For Obamacare Repeal Instead of Reform

In statements echoed by President Trump on Twitter, two prominent Republican senators have called for the GOP to skip the health care overhaul and focus on simple repeal of Obamacare if Republican Senate leadership cannot find 50 votes to move the current health care reform bill forward. Earlier this week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that a vote on the health care bill would be delayed until after the July 4 recess.

In a letter to the White House quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said, “On the current path it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that looks to prop up many of the crumbling Obama care structures.”

“We must keep our word,” Sasse continued. “Therefore, if on July 10 we don’t have agreement on a combined repeal and replace plan, we should immediately vote again on… the December 2015 Obamacare repeal legislation that the Congress passed but President Obama vetoed.”

Within a few minutes of Sen. Sasse’s discussion of re-introducing the 2015 bill, HR 3762, President Trump tweeted support for the idea. “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump said on Twitter.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also endorsed the idea. “I have spoken to @realDonaldTrump & Senate leadership about this and agree. Let’s keep our word to repeal then work on replacing right away,” Paul tweeted.

The 2015 bill in question, HR 3762, was not technically a full repeal of Obamacare either since it also amended the Affordable Care Act rather than repealing it outright. A full repeal would require 60 votes for cloture in the Senate, which is far out of reach. The bill passed the Senate in a largely party line vote on December 3, 2015 by a 52-47 margin.

Sasse has not suggested a strategy for passing a 2017 version of the bill. The problem for Republicans on passage of the current health care reform bill is that nine Republican senators are reportedly in opposition to the bill. Assuming no Democrats cross the aisle, Republicans could lose no more than two senators and still be able to pass the bill.

The current Republican opposition to the health care reform is from both the center and the right wings of the GOP. Moderate Republicans such as Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) argue that the bill hurts too many people on Medicaid in their states while conservatives such as Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) say that the bill does not go far enough in reforming Obamacare. With eroding support from both ends of Republican political spectrum, the current bill has little chance of passage.

Sasse’s plan to revive the 2015 bill is a partial answer in that it should bring the conservatives back on board. The problem is that Republicans would still need moderate votes to move the bill forward.

When the bill originally passed in 2015, Republicans held two more seats in the Senate than they do today. Back then, two Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the bill: Susan Collins and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Kirk lost his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth in 2016, but Collins is still in the Senate and could be counted on to vote against the bill once again. That leaves Republicans with a one vote margin.

Earlier this year, The Resurgent reported that four Republican senators who had voted for the 2015 bill would refuse to vote for a bill that did not allow a slow phase out of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. If Shelly Moore-Capito (R-W.V.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Corey Gardner (R-Col.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) stick to their pledge, it would doom Sasse’s plan.

Still, a deficit of five votes is a more surmountable obstacle than the deficit of nine votes that the GOP currently faces. It is possible that pressure could be brought to bear on the four senators who previously voted for the bill that would keep them in the “yes” column.

An additional risk would be with the reform that still must come after the passage of the near-repeal. Democrats might be persuaded to join the reform effort if most of Obamacare was gutted, but they might also adopt a you-break-it-you-bought-it policy that would allow them to campaign against the Republican-created chaos in the health care markets in 2018 and beyond. Given recent Democrat obstructionism, there is little doubt which course they would take.

Still, as the Republican health care reform seems increasingly dead in the water, Sasse’s plan, long shot that it is, may be the only viable option to keep the GOP promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

McConnell Threatens To Give Democrats Shot At Healthcare Reform

While Donald Trump was busy insulting Mika Brzezinski’s plastic surgery, GOP promises to repeal Obamacare were smoldering in the Senate’s ash heap.  With massive infighting and a delayed vote, the future of Obamacare repeal (or at least some kind of reform) is in doubt.  Desperate to pass something, Mitch McConnell is threatening to bring Democrats into the negotiations now.

The Senate healthcare reform bill, named the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), is not just unpopular with the American public; it’s unpopular with those needed to vote for it.  According to Politico, McConnell may be anywhere from 15 to 20 votes shy of passage.  With only 52 GOP Senators, he can only afford to lose two votes.  There is no easy answer either for McConnell, because opposition is coming from both the right and left.  Conservatives have pointed out BCRA is Obamacare-lite, leaving most of its regulations and subsidies in place.  Meanwhile, moderates are attacking the bill with far left wing talking points, such as “taking away people’s coverage” and “Medicaid cuts”.

So in true liberal Republican fashion, McConnell’s answer is to reach across the aisle and bring in the Democrats.  At least, that is his threat.  According to ABC News, he said,

Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo or … we’ll have to sit down with [Democratic Leader Chuck] Schumer.”

This is insane.  Doing nothing would be better than giving Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders another shot at America’s healthcare system.  They have no interest in actual reforms.

The Democrats have been a united front against any reform bill, screaming about how BCRA will kill people.

Given the chance, they’d just push for more taxes, subsidies, and regulations, laying the groundwork for eventual single payer.  It would be Obamacare on steroids, passed by a Republican President and Congress no less!  When their new propped-up Obamacare system fails, they can then blame Republican “reforms” and demand full socialized medicine as the only answer.

Speaking on the Senate floor this week, Chuck Schumer sounded ready to get involved.  He wanted to “start over” on healthcare, calling on Trump and the GOP to “turn over a new leaf”.  That should make every conservative shutter with fear.  Considering that some in the GOP have said it is now a choice between Obamacare and single-payer, don’t be surprised if some GOP members are open to Schumer’s ideas.  Trump himself has praised single payer on multiple occasions.

Whether Schumer actually comes on board is still to be determined.  McConnell’s comment may also be a bargaining chip, intended to force some Republican Senators to buckle in their demands.  This seems like a threat aimed more at conservatives than moderates though.  Most moderates love bipartisan bills and don’t want any actual healthcare reform anyway.  They’d be happy to leave things status quo – maybe tweak something here or there.  So, a threat to bring in the Democrats wouldn’t have much effect on someone like Dean Heller or Susan Collins.  Heck, a bipartisan bill would let them show what big hearts they have!

It’s conservatives who would suffer, despite having compromised the most in Senate negotiations.  Conservatives have made it clear they want solutions and will work to get them, but moderates have blocked the way.  With 15 to 20 Republican Senators opposing the bill, it is clear much of the opposition is from the left.  There aren’t 15 to 20 conservatives in the Senate like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Mike Lee to oppose BCRA from the right.

So Mitch McConnell may be trying to twist conservatives’ arms to water down the Senate bill even more.  This would be standard operating procedure for GOP leadership.  That or he’s completely selling GOP voters out to crazy progressives.  Either way, whether it’s Susan Collins or Chuck Schumer dictating the legislation, it’s bad news for conservatives.