Another week, another summer Friday bombshell. Actually, considering US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gave the thumbs-down heard ’round the world at 1:30 a.m. – a leisurely 15-plus hours before President Donald Trump fired his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, that would be two bombshells.
McCain’s vote did more than sink the GOP’s latest effort in its now seven-year rhetorical crusade to repeal and/or replace Obamacare. In addition to partially obscuring the courage and conviction of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) – the only two Republicans to vote not only against opening debate on the “skinny health care bill” but against the bill itself – it wound up providing cover for a host of crises yet to be resolved.
Among them: the inability of the GOP majority to do anything even remotely resembling the Jeffersonian ideal of the Senate as a “cooling saucer” for legislation. When you have multiple senators, including Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, saying that they couldn’t vote for the “skinny repeal” – Graham even called it a “disaster” and a “fraud” – who could subsequently cover their asses, knowing that Murkowski, Collins and McCain would provide the necessary cover by torpedoing the bill, that’s a problem.
The hullabaloo over McCain’s surprise embrace of his maverick reputation – and the collective sigh of relief from anywhere between 16 and 30 million people who won’t have to worry about their health care being taken away – overshadowed President Trump’s options for killing Obamacare unilaterally. Canceling subsidy payments to insurers, eliminating the individual mandate and curtailing enrollment outreach are just some of the ways he could, in his words, “let Obamacare implode.”
This particular battle may be over, but it’s doubtful there will be more than a momentary pause in the multi-front assault on affordable health care. And from insurers exiting markets and drastically raising rates in response to the GOP-fueled uncertainty to states like, yes, Pennsylvania enacting even more hurdles to clear before people can get access to Medicaid, the collateral damage is still being inflicted.
Jake Corman: This isn’t to overlook a consumer gross receipts tax on electricity and gas, nor the Medicaid hurdles, nor the very un-Republican decision to borrow $1.3 billion, but for the PA Senate Majority Leader to finally get his caucus to accept the need to create a severance tax on natural gas drillers is a necessary sea change if the commonwealth is to avoid the negative cascade effect that would be set in motion by failure to fund the FY 2016-17 and 2017-18 budgets. Let’s see where the PA House winds up in this column next week.
Kim Bracey: York’s mayor signed into law a bill decriminalizing possession of fewer than 30 grams of marijuana and of smoking it in public. She adds York to the growing number of municipalities choosing to allocate law-enforcement resources elsewhere.
Bryan Cutler: A proposed bill from PA Rep. Cutler would double the financial penalties for lobbyists who don’t disclose their efforts to influence state legislators.
Bob Brady: If there were a “Head-Scratchers” section to this column, we’d put the Congressman there instead. We’re still waiting for the full story that reveals why the powerful politician and head of the Philadelphia Democratic Committee allegedly paid off an outclassed and outspent primary challenger in 2012.
Ed Pawlowski: After a year of speculation, the Allentown mayor was finally indicted on federal corruption charges.
Vaughn Spencer: Also caught up in a federal indictment was the former Reading mayor, who was brought up on charges of bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy following a mammoth two-year investigation that was separate from but related to Pawlowski’s.