Sorry, But The REAL Healthcare Heroes Are Murkowski & Collins (Not John McCain)

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collins murkowski skinny repeal defeat

These Senators are rock stars.

I couldn’t sleep last night.

I made the mistake of checking Twitter at 12:30 am, right before falling asleep, hoping to get one final piece of good news about the fate of the “Skinny Repeal” — the Senate GOP’s new version of their Health Care Freedom Act (i.e. their continuing efforts for repeal Obamacare.)

What I ended up finding was a legislative drama that I simply wasn’t expecting, a drama that kept me obsessively refreshing my Twitter feed until 2:00 am.

Make no mistake, John McCain might’ve gotten the showiest role in the drama — for casting the deciding vote that blocked the repeal efforts the real stars of the show were Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Senator Susan Collins (Maine).

Don’t let ANYONE tell you that they were just supporting figures in the Senate drama last night. They were the unassuming stars of the show. And if anyone should be the talk of the town today, it should be Murkowski and Collins.

Because, regardless of your politics, you have to acknowledge that what those two women did on the Senate Floor was remarkable. To appropriate a popular phrase from conservatives, they held their ground.

They were faced with overwhelming pressure from their own political party and the inevitable social media backlash from a sitting president who had already taken shots at them in the media. They KNEW what they were going to do would make their lives and careers harder and they did it ANYWAY. Because they believed it was the right thing to do.

I couldn’t believe some of the tweets I was reading from the Capitol Hill reporters last night. They described a chaotic scene where Republican senators looked nervous and packs of GOP congressmen (and Vice President Pence) were pulling aside senators like Collins, McCain, and Murkowski for low, hushed conversations.

If that in-person peer pressure wasn’t enough, both Collins and Murkowski had been publicly harassed for their assumed “no” votes all week. The Interior Secretary called Murkowski on Wednesday and told her that her planned vote “had put Alaska's future with the administration in jeopardy,” strongly implying that federal aid to her state might be blocked in retaliation.

(House Democrats are requesting an investigation into the Interior Secretary’s call, with Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva referring to the call as “political blackmail.”)

And, if that wasn’t enough, President Trump specifically called out Murkowski in an angry tweet:

Meanwhile, Senator Collins was challenged to a duel  SERIOUSLY, a duel  by South Texas GOP Representative Blake Farenthold.

Her official response was classy. “In twenty years in the Senate, I have had a lot of people make suggestions about how to resolve legislative disputes, but until today nobody had ever suggested a duel.”

(Though I’ll admit that I prefer her more candid remarks that were later caught on a hot mic when she called Farenthold “huge” and “unattractive,” which… is a pretty accurate description.)

And yet, to steal a line from their opposition party, nevertheless, they persisted.

I’m not saying that John McCain played no role in the events last night. His “No” vote was more shocking and powerful than any plot twist in Game of Thrones history.

Personally, I have a hard time with McCain.

I never know how I feel about the man. I respect his military record, buy I can’t get over that his presidential campaign legitimized Sarah Palin and her ilk. As much as I’ve appreciated some of his harsh commentary about President Trump, I wish his voting record broke rank with Trump more often (particularly when it comes to recent health care issues).

I know there’s been considerable debate about McCain’s “yes” vote to continue Obamacare repeal efforts earlier in the week and I will admit I shared some angry, anguished thoughts about the man to my friends

He is not an easy man to admire, in my eyes.

But to give credit where credit is due, he made a hard decision last night. One that probably made his life infinitely more difficult.

However, with that all acknowledged, McCain simply doesn’t deserve the sole, heroic credit that he’s receiving for “killing” the Skinny Repeal.

He stood his ground, but as far as we know, no one threatened John McCain. The President didn’t tweet about him, except to praise him for returning to Washington to participate in the vote earlier in the week (after having to go on medical leave for brain surgery). No one implied that his state would feel the government’s wrath if he voted one way or the other.

But Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins endured all of that and MORE, and McCain’s vote would’ve been meaningless without their votes cast before him.

I think John McCain has been called a hero enough and Murkowski and Collins haven’t been called it enough.

They proved last night that they’re not willing to rubber-stamp any piece of legislation for their party, regardless of threats against their constituents. They proved, through the courage of their convictions, that there’s more to being a Republican than toeing the party line.

They stood up for their beliefs, even when it was hard, and isn’t that what we all want from our legislators at the end of the day?