Friday, July 28, 2017

EDITORIAL >> McCain deals blow to repeal

After several tries, the Senate this week could not repeal and replace Obamacare as President Trump said it must six months ago. Voting after midnight Friday, the Senate dramatically rejected a “skinny” or partial repeal after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) turned his thumb down, making his the 51st vote against repeal as he joined two other moderate Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

A “skinny” or partial repeal would have unsettled insurance markets, raising premiums and deductibles and tossing at least 20 million off their insurance, including an estimated 230,000 in Arkansans. The American Medical Association, AARP, hospital groups and other professional groups were opposed and for many reasons: Not only would millions have lost their insurance, but those who could afford it would have seen premiums and deductibles skyrocket, with hundreds of small hospitals closing.

It was a bad week for the administration: First there was Tuesday’s vote against repeal and replace by a wide margin, and Wednesday’s vote to just repeal failed by a slightly smaller margin, but still a stunning defeat for Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had seven years to come up with a replacement but didn’t bother. McConnell may not last long as majority leader.

Military commanders are ignoring the President’s tweet Wednesday banning transgender people from serving in the military. Top officers insist they haven’t heard about the change in policy other than Trump’s tweets and will act only if they receive new orders in writing.

In any case, Trump’s decision, if it holds, will likely end up in court and no transgender service members will be kicked out of the military any time soon, especially those serving in war zones.

The Senate is distancing itself from the president not only by rejecting Trumpcare, but by passing a tough Russian sanctions bill 98-2, the Senate has infuriated the Kremlin, which thought it had a friend in the White House.

Son-in-law Jared Kushner didn’t do himself any favors Monday with his glib denial of colluding with the Russians when he attended a meeting last summer at Trump Tower with a group of shady characters sent by Moscow.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued this warning about firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “That will be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration,” Graham said.

Loyal members of the administration who are not Trump relatives find themselves jobless and publicly humiliated.

Turmoil is normal in this administration as staffers conspire against each other to win Trump’s favor. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is the latest casualty. He was replaced Friday by Gen. John Kelly, the head of Homeland Security.

In an obscenity-filled phone call to Ryan Lizza, a writer for The New Yorker magazine, Anthony (Scarface) Scaramucchi, the new White House communications director, threatened to kill his colleagues, including Priebus, for allegedly leaking to the press.

The much-mocked Sean Spicer is out as press secretary, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, is barely holding on. Trump, besieged from all sides, continues to disparage Sessions for recusing from the widening Russian investigation.

Sessions, who is himself under investigation over contacts with the Russians, could walk out and become a friendly witness for the prosecution if Trump keeps insulting him.

Trump may be tempted to fire Sessions, but he has strong support from former Senate colleagues and he could last a while longer.

Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated the Clintons, describes Trump’s taunting of Sessions as “one of the most outrageous courses of presidential conduct in five decades.”

Even former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a longtime Trump supporter, says Sessions had to recuse after his contacts with the Russians. No, says Giuliani, whose name has been floated to succeed Sessions, he’s not interested in becoming attorney general.

Sessions, who was the first senator to support Trump during his campaign, feels abandoned by a White House that considers loyalty to family more important than sticking with those who brought him to the White House.

Letting Sessions slowly twist in the wind will only make Trump lose support in the South, where his approval rating remains high — he’s at 50 percent in Arkansas — while he’s at 39 percent or so elsewhere, the lowest numbers for any president’s first six months since polls were first taken after the Second World War.

Although his approval is still high in much of the South, including Session’s home state, Trump is dropping in Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.

The drama never ends.