Sen. John McCain's decision to oppose the Graham-Cassidy health care bill came on the same day Mike Pence began a major public push in favor of the legislation, leading to more humiliation for Pence as the bill nears collapse.
Just as the Trump administration sent Mike Pence out to stump for the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain announced his decision to oppose the plan, leading to more humiliation for a feckless Pence and potentially killing the legislation.
While Donald Trump simply tweeted about the bill, Pence was positioned — as he often has been — as the salesman for it, attempting to spin the devastating effects it would have on millions of Americans.
But while Pence stuck his neck out for the draconian plan, Republican Sen. John McCain announced that he would not support it. In a statement devastating to the White House’s efforts, McCain wrote, “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal.”
Democrats, of course, have remained solidly in opposition to the attempt to dismantle Obamacare and strip health insurance from millions of people. But McCain’s vote is crucial to any possible passage, as Republicans can only afford to lose two votes, and other members like Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine have indicated they are likely to oppose it.
And McCain’s opposition makes Pence’s recent activity look like a waste of time and resources, if the net result is yet another legislative failure for Republicans and the Trump team.
Pence spoke to two Alaska radio stations, in a bid to squeeze that state’s moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski to support the legislation. The interviews were designed to work in concert with efforts by Senate Republicans to bribe Murkowski with Alaska-specific provisions.
After chatting about fishing for halibut and silver salmon, Pence told KENI in Anchorage that the bill “is our best opportunity to repeal the most onerous elements of Obamacare.” On KFQD, also in Anchorage, Pence rhapsodized that the bill meant “all 50 states will be able to craft healthcare solutions that will lower the cost of health insurance.”
In neither interview did Pence explain that the bill allows insurers to increase costs for people with pre-existing medical conditions as it guts the protections passed into law by President Barack Obama and Democrats in the Affordable Care Act.
Hours before McCain left him out to dry, Pence also hosted racist Maine Governor Paul LePage at the White House, trying — and failing — to publicly put the squeeze on Collins. Responding to the tag team effort from the governor and vice-president, Collins told a newspaper, “There is a lot of pressure, but I’ve had a lot of pressure on a lot of different issues over the years.”
Pence was then dispatched to a barbecue restaurant in Indiana to sell voters on the legislation, even as McCain’s announcement put it on life support.
Trump has shown over and over that he is largely disinterested in the details of legislating while holding the office of president, and has outsourced that job to Pence. While Pence in some instances is distancing himself from Trump’s scandals and other legal entanglements, he is also the fall guy for his boss’s legislative impotence.
Now, right as he is on the front lines of a sales job for unpopular, destructive legislation, Pence has been humiliated by his own party and forced to muddle through more political muck, while Trump hangs out on Twitter.