Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., answers questions from reporters about challenges facing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law in the Supreme Court next week, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2012. The GOP leader criticized the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as "Obamacare," as the single worst piece of legislation during his time in Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Will Trump Get Played By McConnell? Or is Trump Playing Along?

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and most other Senate Republicans played conservatives for fools in 2015. As explained in detail by Patterico at RedState earlier today, a Senate vote in 2015 to repeal Obamacare was a farce – everyone knew Barack Obama would veto it and thus Republican senators got a free chance to mollify home state conservatives.

Fastforward to the present. As Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) candidly and refreshingly acknowledged last week, McConnell was never going to allow any true “repeal and replace” of Obamacare to pass the Senate this time around.  And even the fraudulent “repeal and replace” bill the leadership was peddling finally died last night.

McConnell immediately declared that he will soon hold his caucus’ feet to the fire and demand a vote on a straightforward repeal of Obamacare much like the 2015 vote. President Donald Trump joined in:

It took less than 24 hours for McConnell’s latest sham to be exposed. As of this writing, three “Republican” senators, Susan Collins, (R-Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), have said they will not vote to repeal Obamacare. They’ve guaranteed that, at most, only 49 GOP senators will do so.

All other GOP senators can now vote to repeal Obamacare with the same confidence they had in 2015 that their votes will (again) be meaningless gestures aimed at the rubes back home.

None of these three “Republican” senators are up for re-election in 2018 and will therefore have plenty of time to mollify conservatives in their states. Moreover, all of them won their last elections by overwhelming majorities: Murkowski by 15% last year, Capito by 27% in 2014, and Collins by 36% in 2014.

In other words, if you were a GOP Senate majority leader seeking cover for your caucus, but needing at least three of your 52 members to defect, these are exactly the three you would count on. McConnell obviously knew their views when he issued his press release last night and that this latest Obamacare repeal scheme was DOA.

But Trump is demanding a repeal as well. So McConnell’s latest shell game is no longer really about McConnell. It’s about Trump.

Is Trump getting played by McConnell and other Senate GOP leaders? Or is he also in on the act?

One way we’ll know is by observing how Trump reacts to senators who are giving him the finger. Trump beat Hillary in Alaska and West Virginia by 15% and 42%, respectively. Is he going to use this leverage to, for example, foment primary challenges against Murkowski and Capito as he’s now doing in Arizona? If they receive no payback for permanently entrenching Obamacare, we’ll know that it wasn’t Trump being played for a fool, but rather Trump and “Republican” senators playing the rest us for one.

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Matthew Monforton

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