GOP faces its Vietnam moment with health care vote

From left, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) hold a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington last week to unveil health care reform legislation. Andrew Harnik | AP

“We’d like to do something and something’s better than nothing.”

And this concludes the lesson on how a dead-and-gone effort to repeal Obamacare rolled back to life.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ response to the question yesterday revealed anew that the effort is born entirely of a concern for the political futures of the men of the U.S. Senate.

Coincidentally, his comment came the same evening as Ken Burns’ second episode of The Vietnam War series concluded with President John Kennedy acknowledging that the still-growing Indochina war was likely a lost cause. But how could he say that “and still expect people to vote for me?”

Republicans are in their own political quagmire having made easy-to-make campaign speeches and finding actually destroying the health care of Americans is a little harder. Now, they’ve got only 11 days left before they’d have to include Democrats in an overhaul of the system. Eleven days to jam an under-the-radar bill through the Senate before Americans, whose attention has been diverted to hurricanes, gets wind of the effort.

“It is hard to overstate the cruelty of the Graham-Cassidy bill,” the New York Times writes in its editorial today. “It would eliminate the mandate that even healthy people buy health insurance, end the subsidies that help people purchase coverage and stop the expansion of Medicaid.

It would offer states block grants they could use to help people get insurance but would leave people at the mercy of individual state legislatures and, over all, would provide $239 billion less than what the federal government would spend under current law between 2020 and 2026, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

The two Republican women who courageously bucked their political leaders on a bill considered better than this one — Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — lean against this bill, too, but haven’t ruled out voting for it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has once again been better at portraying himself as a maverick then actually being one (not that the nation’s political media has noticed, mind you), is once again a key, providing political cover for himself by saying he might vote for it if his state’s governor approves of the idea. He does.

“We’ve had nine months to get it done and we haven’t so is it my problem now that we only have a week? It’s not my problem,” McCain tells CNN.

Extensive hearings? Reasonable time for debate? A Congressional Budget Office assessment of the bill’s impact? No time for that. And, besides, something’s better than nothing.

Senators will have 90 seconds to two minutes to speak on the bill, one Democratic senator says.

“It’s a heck of a way to make a far reaching decision that will affect every American,” Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts writes today.

But how else can senators expect the American people to vote for them again?