I wrote a dyspeptic column today on Republicans and Obamacare repeal:
At least Collins, an ideological outlier in the Republican Conference, has been consistent. She voted against the repeal-only bill in 2015, and the GOP leadership never thought she was gettable. The same can’t be said of her cohorts. Capito and Murkowski both voted for the repeal-only bill a year and a half ago. The only plausible reason they’ve switched now is that they knew the bill would be safely relegated to oblivion by an Obama veto, whereas Trump will now sign any legislation into law.
Then there is another tranche of Republicans, like Rob Portman, who are nervous fence-sitters. The Ohio senator doesn’t have to appear on a ballot again until 2022, yet gives every indication of quailing at taking a tough vote. The former Office of Management and Budget director’s calling card is fiscal conservatism, yet he blanches at the prospect of scaling back Medicaid. He is a wonk, yet appears to be outsourcing his policy thinking to Gov. John Kasich.
For Rand Paul, clearly, a perhaps once-in-generation opportunity to significantly reform two entitlement programs isn’t as important as scoring cheap points against his colleagues in the cause of getting as many cable hits as possible. For a purist, he can’t keep his story straight. At first, he insisted that repeal had to be accompanied by replace. Now, he’s back to saying just repeal. Whatever it is, Paul will find a reason to oppose … because libertarianism.
Lee is a thoughtful, public-interested conservative who isn’t a showboater. He has an outsize influence on the prospects of the bill because he is one of the few Republicans willing to be the decisive vote against it. If he’s opposed, then other senators can slipstream behind him and declare against, as well. This is what happened this week when Moran joined Lee in public opposition. This is why it’s particularly important that the Utah senator keep the big picture in view; torpedoing the entire effort over a relatively technical question about the insurance risk pools — Lee’s current posture — would be a disastrous mistake.