Sometime after midnight Thursday, the showdown came. Senate Republicans had exhausted all their options, and all they had left was what they call the "skinny repeal" -- and what I call their "bait and switch" plan.
They took the existing Affordable Care Act, which they have taught people to hate, and proposed repealing certain aspects (like the individual mandate) that they hoped would appeal to this or that senator -- and they put it up for a vote, with the bespoke understanding that the House would not later vote it into law.
It was to be merely a ruse -- the "bait," if you will -- to trigger a negotiated compromise bill, worked out by House and Senate members together in a reconciliation conference committee. They couldn't go to conference with the House unless they got 51 votes for something.
When the roll call vote began around 1:30 am, it was expected that all 48 Dems and 2 Repubs (Collins and Murkowski) would vote No. Even though probably half the Repubs would have strongly opposed the skinny repeal as law, they were willing to vote for it as a means to the goal. That would have led to a 50-50 tie, and VP Pence would have cast a Yes vote to break the tie.
But that wily old maverick, John McCain, one week out of surgery for a brain tumor, cast his vote as No. And the bill -- the bait and switch -- failed.
But here's what I was setting this up to tell -- an observation on what's become of our society. We no longer have each other's backs; or, put another way, we are not "our brothers' keepers." At least not when it comes to arcane legislative procedures, far removed from your neighbor's actual sickbed -- or his house destroyed by hurricane.
Reaction the morning after from the conservative, "Fox and Friends" host, Steve Doocy, was snarky and sarcastic. He said: "Congratulations. The healthy people are paying for the sick people." The implied message, it seemed to me, was: 'You nincompoops. You just agreed to keep on paying for all these losers who refuse to take responsibilities for their own lives.'
It's the same as wanting a flat tax, or a consumer tax, so that the billionaire pays the same tax rate as his golf caddie or his wife's cleaning woman. They don't really want a society that takes care of all its members. They don't want to recognize that the billionaire can't get there and stay there without the consumers of his products, the construction workers who build the road to his factory, the servants who make his life easy.
But leave aside even moral economics. They don't even, when you come right down to it, they don't believe in the concept of insurance. You pay a small amount over the years, when you don't need insurance, so there's a pool of money to pay your big expenses when you do need it. That's what it comes down to.