David has the basic overview below of what is coming today. I wanted to add a few more points about what to expect and just as, or perhaps more, importantly what you can do now.
First, this should remind us of what I’ve previously called the Iron Law of Republican Politics. That is, the ‘GOP moderates’ will always cave. I learned this law back in 1998-99 during the impeachment drama. Lots of Republicans thought impeachment was insanity. They warned against it. Said it shouldn’t happen. Said it would be a disaster. Every Republican in the House but four ended up voting for it.
That’s the Iron Law: the ‘GOP moderates’ will always cave.
I confess that after the first debacle and the sharp move of public opinion in favor of Obamacare, I thought Ryan would have a much harder time pulling this off. After all, the GOP moderates in the House didn’t get anything. The bill moved further to the right, further to gutting coverage on the second round. They caved anyway.
This brings me to the First Corollary of the Iron Law of Republican Politics: Josh should never doubt the Iron Law of Republican Politics.
Our team is going to be watching this with eagle eyes as it goes down to the wire. We’ll be bringing you ever flip and flop as they shake out. If you see news breaking in the national or especially in the local press, tell us ASAP. Flag it to our almost 17 year old TPM email box at talk (at) talkingpointsmemo dot com. It’s the one linked right under the TPM logo at the upper left.
What happens next after this bill passes the House, as we assume it will this afternoon? Then it goes to the Senate where it should face much longer odds. The GOP majority is smaller in the Senate and a substantial number of Senators have already said they can’t support this bill or really anything like it. But the Iron Law of Republican Politics should sober anyone who thinks that a bill can’t get through the Senate or that the kind of bill that can get through the Senate will be too far from anything that can pass again in the House.
I don’t see how it can get through the Senate. But remember The Iron Law of Republican Politics.
Now, what can you do? Actually, a lot.
Needless to say, if you’re in a district represented by a Republican in Congress, call them. The most obvious people to call are the ones who are still wavering or the ones who were noes until a day or so ago and turned yes. That’s the one way this could still go down in flames: if a few of those folks flip back.
But here’s what you often won’t hear.
It matters just as much if your GOP rep is voting against this bill. To call and say “Hey thanks”? Not remotely.
If your Republican Rep is voting ‘no’, it’s still their vote and their seat which makes Paul Ryan the Speaker. That’s making this possible. If their seat was held by a Democrat (and obviously a number of seats more, not just that one) this wouldn’t be happening. So it’s not just about their vote. They make the majority possible. And that’s why this is happening. So really, they are just as responsible as the Republicans are voting “yes”. That’s true as a factual matter. As a matter of political strategy, if you want to protect the coverage of those 24 million people, you should let them know that you plan to hold them responsible for this. The heat on them will matter a lot because they have little real incentive to try to stop the train if they think they’re off the hook because they voted “no”. This is very important.
I guarantee you there are many conversations between ‘no’ voting Republican Reps and House leadership in which it’s a very straightforward arrangement. “I wish you guys the best but I need to vote ‘no’. It won’t fly in my district.” For a certain number, the leadership says, “We understand. We’ll give you a pass. We have the votes.” So the “no” voting Rep thinks he or she is covered. I’m in the clear. They shouldn’t be for the reasons I’ve stated above. In many cases, they are perfectly happy to see the 24 million go to the butcher block. Because it’s not on them. Or they don’t think it will be. It’s important for constituents to let them know that is not how they see it.
If your Rep is a diehard “yes” in a safe district, you should still call. Why? First, no one is ever that safe. But the more important point is that when people in safe seats hear more than they expected, they will rightly get the sense that other people in their caucus might go down to defeat. So they may no longer be in the majority. Especially today, parties operate as units. No representative is an island.
Another point to consider is that this seems likely to pass by maybe as little as one or two votes. What does that mean? That means that every Republican “yes” on their own could have made the difference. Let’s say this literally passes by one vote. That means your Republican Rep, alone, could have saved coverage for 24 million people. And so could that other Republican Rep who represents your cousin in other state. Funny how that works, isn’t it? But it’s true. That’s powerful. That’s the making of 30 seconds ads.
I could rattle off a list of other scenarios. But the point is that you should call basically no matter what. The utility and impact may not be as obvious. But often, the impact is almost as great as it would be if you were calling someone who was actually wavering. Sometimes greater. The over-arching point is don’t fall for the silliness of vote count literalism. Call. It matters.