On Friday, the latest iteration of Trumpcare likely received its death blow when Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) announced his opposition to the bill. Just like his last-minute thumbs-down late in July, McCain’s opposition probably seals the fate of Republicans’ current push to repeal Obamacare. And once again, Senator Dean Heller (R) is left with nothing to show for it.
What Heller said in June
Governor Brian Sandoval and Senator Dean Heller hold a joint press conference on the Senate #Trumpcare bill
Posted by Nevada Forward on Friday, June 23, 2017
Three months ago, Senator Dean Heller stood alongside long-time ally Governor Brian Sandoval (R) to announce his opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act that Republican leaders were pushing. Heller himself exclaimed, “This bill will mean a loss of coverage for millions of Americans and many Nevadans.” After Sandoval signaled he could not support any Trumpcare bill that results in Nevadans losing health insurance, Heller promised to do the same.
Sandoval never wavered. One month later, he signed onto a letter with a bipartisan coalition of Governors opposing the “skinny repeal” version of Trumpcare that Senate Republicans ultimately brought to the floor. And this month, Sandoval spoke up again to denounce the Graham-Cassidy version of Trumpcare that could result in 243,000 Nevadans losing coverage and the state losing $639 million in health care funds.
Heller flips, then flops
Despite Heller’s promise not to vote for a motion to proceed with Trumpcare, he did so on July 25. Two days later, Heller voted for the Trumpcare plan that many House Republicans were hoping to use as a vehicle to continue pursuing the very Medicaid cuts Heller said he opposed. Despite Heller’s vote in favor, this version of Trumpcare failed by the narrowest margins due to opposition from Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and John McCain.
Just before the “skinny repeal” floor vote, Heller agreed to co-sponsor a new version of Trumpcare introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana). Even though Heller previously stated he could not vote for legislation that jeopardizes Nevadans’ health care, the Graham-Cassidy bill does exactly that by ending federal support for Medicaid expansion after 2020, slashing overall federal health care funding to the states by $4 trillion over a 20 year period, and restoring insurance companies’ ability to charge more or deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Nonetheless, Heller claimed last month that his votes and his support for Graham-Cassidy somehow saved Medicaid expansion.
Even with Heller as a co-sponsor, Trumpcare fails again
This month, Senate Republicans decided to give Trumpcare one more try, as they won’t be able to use reconciliation rules to pass it after September 30. Despite several Senate Republicans signaling willingness to agree upon legislation to stabilize Obamacare, Republican leaders effectively sabotaged bipartisan negotiations by charging ahead with Graham-Cassidy. And despite Heller’s claims otherwise, anti-tax guru Grover Norquist gloated about how Graham-Cassidy sabotages Obamacare to death at the Conservative Leadership Conference last weekend.
Perhaps it was this two-faced strategy to promote the bill. Perhaps it was Jimmy Kimmel denouncing the bill on his late-night TV show. Perhaps it was a chorus of Republican Governors, like Nevada’s Brian Sandoval, publicly opposing the bill. Or perhaps it was a combination of all these. Whatever the case, this version of Trumpcare seemingly met the same fate of all the previous versions.
John McCain, who played a critical role in killing “skinny repeal” in July, declared Friday that he “can not in good conscience” vote for Graham-Cassidy. With Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski likely to vote against it, and with Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) declaring he’d oppose this bill, Republican leaders are again short of the 50 votes they need to pass Trumpcare.
What does Heller get for all his effort?
For all Heller’s flips and flops, and for all of his attempts to simultaneously please moderates and conservatives with his health care vacillations, what does he have to show for it? Bad blood between him and Sandoval? Lousy poll numbers? A suddenly credible primary challenge from Danny Tarkanian?
For all his effort to push a bill that goes against everything he claimed to be for, it remains to be seen if Heller can actually succeed in getting this bill out of the Senate any time soon.