Via the Washington Post, GOP senators heard from the folks back home about one issue over the break.
EASTPORT, Maine — For the 15th year, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) spent July 4 marching through this town of 1,331, a short boat ride away from Canada. She walked and waved, next to marching bands and Shriner-driven lobster boats. Her constituents cheered — and then asked whether she would vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act.
“There was only one issue. That’s unusual. It’s usually a wide range of issues,” Collins said in an interview after the parade. “I heard, over and over again, encouragement for my stand against the current version of the Senate and House health-care bills. People were thanking me, over and over again. ‘Thank you, Susan!’ ‘Stay strong, Susan!’ ”
Collins, whose opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act helped derail last week’s plans for a quick vote, is being lobbied to smother it and make Congress start over. Republicans, who skipped the usual committee process in the hopes of passing a bill quickly, are spending the Fourth of July recess fending off protesters, low poll numbers and newspaper front pages that warn of shuttered hospitals and 22 million people being shunted off their insurance. It was a bill, Collins said, that she just couldn’t vote for.
“If you took a blank sheet of paper and said, ‘How could we get a bill that would really hammer Maine,’ this would be it,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who walked ahead of Collins in the parade.
Few Republicans have responded like Collins, who let voters know where to find her. Last month, when Congress broke for the long holiday, just four of the Senate’s 52 Republicans — Collins, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — announced appearances at Fourth of July parades. Just three — Cruz, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — said they would hold public town hall meetings. All have criticized the bill; three “no” votes would sink it.
Gee, I wonder why they’re holding so few town hall meetings?
Cruz faced something else in McAllen, Tex., a city on the Mexican border that had voted heavily for Hillary Clinton last year. Early Tuesday morning, as Cruz grabbed a microphone, protesters behind a short fence waved signs reading “No Transfer of Wealth 4 Our Health” and “No Repeal, No Medicaid Cuts.” Supporters with Cruz gear tried, in vain, to drown them out.
What’s ironic about this is that most of the Republicans who are making themselves available are facing crowds who are echoing the sentiments and questions that these very Republicans whipped up back in 2009 and 2010 against Obamacare and President Obama. Then it was “democracy in action”; now it’s just a bunch of “left-wing activists and media.”
As for the bill itself, never underestimate the ability of the GOP leadership to come up with something truly awful that is meant to only attract the “moderates.”