I’ve seen several people assume that if the House passes TrumpCare it will get through the Senate, because McConnell is promising to do so. Only McConnell is not saying that he has the votes, only that he wants TrumpCare off his calendar in a timely manner:
Trumpcare may or may not grind out enough votes to pass the House. In the Senate, it’s hopelessly short of the 50 votes it needs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has laid out a wildly aggressive time frame, under which his chamber would essentially xerox the House bill and pass it into law within a few days — no hearings, no negotiations. A few weeks ago, I suggested the possibility that McConnell’s plan was not wildly aggressive but actually designed to fail. His latest comments make this scenario seem far more likely.
“We’re not slowing down,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “We will reach a conclusion on health care next week.” And while he is brimming with certainty about the speed of the process, he is hardly confident of its outcome: “We’ll either pass something that will achieve a goal that we’ve been working on,” he said. “Or not.”
The only possible way a health-care bill could pass the Senate would be a heroic feat of negotiation to bridge the chasm between Republicans who think the House bill provides too much care (Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz) and those who think it provides too little (a group numbering perhaps as many as a dozen, depending on how one interprets various fretting remarks). Republicans can lose no more than two votes in the upper chamber. What’s more, one of their senators, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, is out indefinitely while recovering from back surgeries. Isakson’s absence in the short term cuts the GOP’s margin for error in half, which means — unless he rushes back faster than expected — a vote next week is all the more hopeless.
If McConnell has concluded that there’s no way he can get 50 votes for anything the House passes — and I haven’t seen any whip count suggesting that they’re even particularly close to 50 — all failing to “conclude” the process means is that it will drag on for a long time and still fail. And having TrumpCare linger will get in the way of voting on Gorsuch an tax cuts, which are almost certainly much higher priorities for McConnell than health care anyway.
Anyway, if McConnell starts saying he has the votes, be very worried. If he keeps saying he will “conclude” the process one way or another quickly, he wants TrumpCare dead and is telling the House to forget health care and get to work on a stand-alone upper-class tax cut.