It’s been a long week, humor me. Much appreciation to Mr. Pierce, and also Sen. Murkowski, and even John McCain:
… After a motion to send the bill to committee sponsored by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington failed, McConnell held the vote open for nearly an hour, giving his people time to work on any fence-sitters. Even Mike Pence came down to join in the lobbying and, if necessary, cast another deciding vote. Pretty soon, it became obvious that McCain was going to be the focal point of all the politicking. That was when Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, did a very smart thing. She walked over to McCain and talked to him for a good 45 minutes, essentially boxing everyone out, even Pence, who tried his best. The drama kept building and Murkowski kept talking to him. She, along with Susan Collins of Maine, were the true stalwarts against the bill, voting against every attempt to demolish the ACA, and even voting against the bill coming to the floor, which is something that McCain couldn’t bring himself to do. Murkowski even stood up against some clumsy—and marginally illegal—threats from Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior. She and Collins were implacable. If you told me that some of their courage rubbed off on McCain, I wouldn’t argue with you.
“Those were some of the bravest votes I ever saw in politics,” said Angus King, the Independent from Maine.
After a while, with the entire Senate chamber rapt with attention, McCain walked down the aisle and across in front of the presiding officer’s desk, over to the Democratic side of the chamber, where he joined a group consisting of Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. The smiles started small, and then spread around the semi-circle of Democrats and McCain, whose love for the dramatic gesture remains undimmed, spread his arms out and lifted his head in mock supplication. Everybody laughed. Not long afterwards, Mike Pence left the chamber entirely, rather than preside over an impending political catastrophe.
The only thing that saved the day was the way it ended. The rest was taken up by a legislative process that had as much to do with orderly democracy as a tornado does with home décor…
You can spend hours trying to determine why McCain voted the way he did. He certainly took some convincing to do so, unless you think his inexplicable vote to proceed on Tuesday was the beginning of some Machiavellian exercise to saw off the limb behind McConnell and the president*. Maybe he truly was revolted by the bizarre process through which this exercise was conducted and perhaps he truly did yearn nostalgically for regular order. Maybe he didn’t want what may be his last major act as a U.S. senator to be the person who jacked their healthcare from 16 million of his fellow citizens. Or maybe it was just pure cussedness. Whatever the case, when McCain walked into the chamber and dropped his thumb down, the whole place turned into a goddamned Frank Capra movie.
“It was a pretty good movie, wasn’t it?” Angus King said. “It’s easy to stand up to your opponents. It’s much harder to stand up to your friends.”…