John McCain Kills “Skinny-Repeal” of ACA in Eleventh Hour; Russian Sanctions Pass Easily; North Korea

The Health Care Bill is Dead: 

After seven years of rhetoric promising the demise of former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, divisive battles in both the Republican-majority House and Senate, and a failed effort to pass the American Health Care Act, the Senate moved early this morning to vote on a bill narrowly targeted to destroy key components of the Affordable Care Act. In most significant jeopardy were the individual mandate and the continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Ironically called the Health Care Freedom Act, the bill would have given insurance companies the right to decline coverage for myriad categories of care, including prenatal and maternity.

The timeline of the evening went something like this: around 11pm, the GOP published the bill online, only a few hours after they revealed its contents to their colleagues in the Senate. By 12:30, the vote opened. Shortly after, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) received a call from President Trump and left the floor– after already speaking to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WY) and Vice President Mike Pence. He returned soon after with a coy instruction to “watch the show,” and quickly cast his “nay” vote, shortly before 1:30 in the morning.

“I thought it was the right vote. I do my job as a Senator.” — John McCain

With all Democrats committed to a no vote, three Republican defectors were necessary to ensure the bill could not pass with Vice President Pence ready and willing to break a 50-50 tie. John McCain was one of the three, along with Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

It is also worth noting that Senator McCain was not the only legislator in the Senate who arrived in the midst of a battle with cancer specifically to vote on this bill. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is presently fighting stage IV renal cancer, diagnosed this past May. She gave an impassioned speech on the floor late last night, pleading for her colleagues to demonstrate some measure of humanity in deciding the fate of millions of Americans. Thankfully, just enough of them did.

I mention Senator Hirono’s role in this because in this morning’s news cycles, Senator McCain has been heralded as the great hero of healthcare. While he deserves credit for voting with his conscience above his party, and while he has rightfully received a significant amount of respect for his past service and present diagnosis of brain cancer, and his was the numerically decisive vote–hence my headline– the stories of the female republicans from Maine and Alaska whose votes were just as critical in preventing the passage of the bill, and Senator Hirono’s tenacity in casting her vote in spite of a more-dire physical condition have been mostly overshadowed. This is not a surprise for those of us observing the media through a feminist lens–short of Rachel Maddow, there really are few news anchors who care to report on the actions of women when they can instead discuss those of a man, even in liberal networks– it is worth mentioning each and every time it occurs. Only by drawing attention to these inadequacies and being willing to critique our own side of the fence when necessary can the left truly build a party worth fighting for, rather than simply focusing on the right as a party to fight against.

Russian Sanctions Sail Through Congress

In other news, the House and Senate successfully passed a bill that would increase sanctions against Russia in retaliation for their interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. The vote was surprisingly easy, passing 419-3 in the House and 98-2 in the Senate. The more intriguing of the two was absolutely the latter– the two “nay” votes belonged to Senator Rand Paul  (R-KY), and, rather shockingly, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). It is worth noting that one of Senator Sanders’ senior campaign advisors during the 2016 Democratic primary elections, Vitali Shkliarov, is Russian, and that the Senator and his wife are potentially facing money-laundering charges related to his campaign finances.

While the bill received a shocking degree of bipartisan support, it remains unclear what the President will do with it. His choices, certainly, are limited and less than ideal. He can sign the bill, which would certainly displease any friends he or his campaign had made at the Kremlin, and which Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared would be met with the seizure of two American-owned buildings in Russia and an already-effected reduction in the number of American diplomatic personnel in the state. Alternatively, President Trump could elect to veto the bill outright– which would almost certainly be read as an admission of a patronage relationship between himself and Russia, and which Congress would fairly assuredly override– or “pocket veto” the bill, refusing to grant a decision and stalling the process entirely. This option might be the least favorable in terms of optics, and would likely result in a further break between the President and the Republican party. Regardless of what choice he makes, one can only imagine that Robert Mueller will be paying fairly close attention as it unfolds.

North Korean Missile Launches Continue 

Finally– because it was too slow of a news day– Kim Jong Un decided to remind the world that he still has missiles, and is ready to make life quite inconvenient for Japan and South Korea if anyone had any ideas about changing that. Around 10:45 (EDT) this morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile that may have violated Japan’s sovereign waters. Needless to say, if that is the case, it will likely be deemed an act of war, at which point the United States– as an ally of Japan– would be compelled to respond. It is impossible to overstate the significance of this, not only to the global order, but also to Trump’s presidency. As we all learned with former President George W. Bush, a war is a fast track to higher approval ratings for a President, almost without fail. Armed conflict may be the one thing that could save Trump’s office– and would almost certainly represent his only path to a second term. Moreover, this is one of the few things that the various competing factions in the White House (Bannon, Priebus, Kushner/Scaramucci) would likely agree upon. While there is not much we can hope to do to prevent this conflict if North Korea decides–rather inexplicably–to force the issue, but some awareness of its significance could at least help combat some of the secondary effects.

Well, folks, that’s all for now– although if tomorrow is anything like the past few days, you’ll be hearing from me again quite soon. In the meantime, if anyone has any issues they would like to have discussed in the next couple of weeks, please feel free to drop a comment or use the Contact Me button above to send a private message.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

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