Friday, July 28, 2017

Lyin's of the Senate

Without a scorecard, one cannot be sure who is voting for what in the Senate.  But one thing seems to be clear: votes are not politically wasted.  No one votes against a stupid idea his stupid constituents want unless it may actually become law.  Then, as few senators as possible are given the task of "standing on principle," "showing political courage," "putting country over party," or whatever cliche will work to kill the stupid idea before it makes the senators look dumb in retrospect for passing it.

My best guess is that all of these acts of "courage" are carefully orchestrated.  Take last week's "battle" over whether to bring the various doomed Obamacare repeal bills to the floor.  After the vote was taken to proceed to a floor vote, Senator McCain gave a wonderful speech about how the Senate should return to regular order, with committees and hearings and inter-party negotiations and compromises.  It was a stirring speech, delivered after the thing to be stirred was already fully baked.  The horse had left the barn, and McCain was not gonna let him escape some more.

Why was this speech not given before the vote to do the opposite?  The answer is simple: leadership wanted to give members the ability to vote to repeal Obamacare one last time.  They could not get that opportunity if the motion to proceed was defeated, and it would not be seemly at all for them to vote to proceed after the heroic McCain had struggled from his deathbed to exhort them to legislate like, well, legislators.  So, McCain voted for the motion to proceed and then pretended to urge his brethren and sistren to do exactly the opposite of the thing they had just done.  A profile in courage?  Not hardly.

But wait, there's more.  Once the bill got to the floor, something had to be done to keep it from becoming law, because it was terrible and unpopular, without requiring too many senators to vote against repealing Obamacare.  Collins and Murkowski were already committed - it's not clear why, but let's call them brave and move on - but who would be the third necessary vote to bell this particular cat?  Who can exhibit such remarkable independence?  Who can be a maverick and put country first?  In other words, who had the least to lose?  Maybe some old guy with a short life expectancy and maybe a score to settle with our Feckless Leader?  Who might that be?

Reports are that McCain spent a fair amount of time openly chatting with Chuck Schumer on the night of the Obamacare repeal vote.  These are not dances one does as if no one were watching.  This dance was done in plain sight to suggest that McCain got something for his bravery, that his appeal to regular order won't end up making him look like a sap.  One can only hope that he did get something, that regular order does return to the Senate, and that they produce a popular bill that even the morons in the House won't be stupid enough to reject.  I'm not a fan of Schumer - he's a walking platitude, elevated by seniority to a position where a statesman might be useful - but he's not a terrible person.  We Americans may be approaching our Churchill moment, when we do the right thing after trying everything else.

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