Less than two weeks after undergoing brain surgery and a month after appearing dazed and confused during a congressional hearing, John McCain delivered a passionate, patriotic and cogent speech about the challenges facing the U.S. Senate as it considers health care legislation.
McCain, a Republican from Arizona, was part of a 50-50 vote Tuesday on whether to proceed with consideration of a health care bill; Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie.
There are downsides to proceeding, given that a previous version of Senate legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act was seriously flawed — and that McCain accurately labeled the current iteration as a "shell of a bill."
Nevertheless, he spoke candidly about what it might take to produce not only a political victory but a bill that repairs the ACA, aka Obamacare.
"We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven't found it yet, and I'm not sure we will. All we've managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn't very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.
"I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state's governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it.
We've tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it's better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don't think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn't.
"The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn't have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn't do the same with ours.
"Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today."
Add adequate funding of Medicaid, sufficient support for the ACA's income-based tax credits for the purchase of insurance sold on the private market, minimum levels of insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions — and the Senate would have a bill worthy of passage.
REPRINTED FROM THE NORTHWEST FLORIDA DAILY NEWS