“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”
“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
–Lewis Carroll, The Walrus and The Carpenter
It’s like, how much more “moderate” Republican could this be? And the answer is, none:
Before the vote, Heller highlighted parts of the so-called “sense of” amendment that say states should incentivize states to prioritize Medicaid services for the most medically needy individuals and the Senate should not consider legislation that reduces or eliminates benefits or coverage for current Medicaid-eligible individuals. So-called “sense of” amendments or bills aren’t legally binding, but are generally used to express the majority opinion of Congress.
“I want everybody to express for their own states how important the Medicaid program is for their states and I would urge a yes vote from my colleagues,” Heller said.
The amendment stated the Senate should review the issue of Medicaid expansion and health care coverage for low-income Americans and shouldn’t consider any legislation that discourages states from expanding the program or shifts costs to states.
The text of the amendment also stated that the Affordable Care Act — of which the Medicaid expansion is a part — should be repealed, arguing that it increases health care costs, limits patient choices, and forces people to buy pricy insurance. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would slash funds to states like Nevada that opted into Medicaid expansion.
In introducing the amendment, Heller reiterated that he couldn’t support a health care bill “balanced on the backs” of Nevada’s poorest and sickest residents made by cutting the expanded Medicaid populations.
“Moderate” Republicans, a play in one act:
NEVADAN: “Sen. Heller, I was just diagnosed with cancer, it’s treatable, but I will no longer be eligible for Medicaid. I couldn’t afford even a single chemo treatment and will die.”
SEN. HELLER: “Don’t worry, I voted for a symbolic amendment saying that Medicaid is a great idea in theory before voting to cut it 35%.”
N: “OK, but I’m losing my insurance. I have no way to pay for the life-saving treatment I need.”
HELLER: “I made it clear that Medicaid is a good idea in theory! If states respond to a massive cut buy insuring fewer people, how is that our fault? What could we do about it?”
N: “The hospital was very clear that they will not accept symbolic support for Medicaid in lieu of payment. I will die.”
HELLER: “Don’t get tired of all the winning! Whoops, gotta go — I promised Steve Wynn I’d do his laundry.”
And now, the punchline:
An amendment from Nevada Sen. Dean Heller expressing the Senate’s support for maintaining funding to the Medicaid program while repealing the Affordable Care Act suffered a quick and overwhelming defeat during a Wednesday afternoon vote.
The procedural vote to move forward with the amendment, which failed 10-90, faced opposition from both conservative Republicans, who would like to see cuts made to the government-funded insurance program, and from Democrats, who would like to see the Affordable Care Act stay in place. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders challenged the amendment on the grounds that it violated the Budget Act, and not enough senators supported waiving the applicable sections for a vote on Heller’s measure to proceed.
So, to review: Dean Heller, legislative SUPERGENIUS, put forward a symbolic resolution with the apparent goal of convincing himself that you can be a good person and like Medicaid even when voting to massively cut it. It failed by 80 votes because the vast majority of the Republican conference hates Medicaid and is very happy to cut it. Heller will almost certain to vote for massive Medicaid cuts anyway, because he’s a party hack and puppet of greasy casino magnates. But he’s really a nice guy!
If anything can make you have a sliver of appreciation for Mitch McConnell’s straightforward nihilism, it’s Republicans who affect moderation.