Saturday, December 2, 2017

Where have you gone, John McCain?

With your drums and guns and guns and drums
The enemy nearly slew ye;
Oh darling dear, ye look so queer,
Johnny I hardly knew ye
                      -- The Irish Rovers

By Tom Walker

Indeed, we hardly knew him – this John McCain who with his “thumbs down” destroyed an attempt by his fellow-Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. That dramatic vote took place in September 2017.
But late Friday night, another John McCain showed up when it came time to cast his vote on the Senate bill that would slash taxes on corporations and billionaires, while crushing many poorer Americans with the largest tax increase in history.
Johnny, what happened? What made you decide to join this $1.5 trillion theft of the U.S. treasury?
In his September “no” vote on the Obamacare Repeal, McCain said bills like that should be worked out through the “regular order” – including committee hearings, bipartisan participation, and plenty of the sausage-making worthy of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.
On Thursday, McCain claimed that the Senate had done just that in its massive tax cut measure. Well, if producing a nearly 500-page mess of  half-cooked pork, scratch-outs and scribbles is the “regular order,” the Senate proved to be Top Chef.
For his part, McCain was satisfied. There were no regular committee hearings, or attempts to include Democrats in the process. Nevertheless, he explained, “I have called for a return to regular order, and I am pleased that this important bill was considered through the normal legislative processes, with several hearings and a thorough mark-up in the Senate Finance Committee during which more than 350 amendments were filed and 69 received a vote.”
Big whoop, says Jon Schwarz in The Intercept. “For anyone who understands Senate procedure, this is meaningless.”
Schwarz quotes someone who does understand that procedure, Adam Jentleson, who was chief of staff for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
“Citing filed amendments is deeply cynical and shows that he doesn’t really care about regular order,” Jentleson said. “He just used it because it’s a big number and he thinks no one will call him on it…. It could be a million amendments filed but that doesn’t mean any of them received real consideration.”
But why did McCain change from the “maverick” who killed the Obamacare repeal to the meek follower who joined 50 other Republicans in passing a bill that also will leave 13 million Americans without health insurance, will scrap the college student loan write-off, and will do away with many personal deductions.
Some other deductions, such as the one for large medical expenses (important to me) are up in the air, since  the Senate version keeps them but the House doesn’t, which must be worked out in conference committee. The bill is still a long way from becoming a law with Trump’s signature, but I’m sure he’s twitching with excitement, thinking about what the tax “reform” will mean to him and his heirs.
And most likely, that’s what brought about McCain’s conversion. In September, voting against the health care repeal, he was the statesman McCain. Last night, voting for the huge tax cut, he was a man with brain cancer, voting for his heirs.
As Tim Steller wrote in his Arizona Daily Star column, “we should not be surprised that McCain violated the principal that he established only two months ago when it came to this help-the-rich bill. That’s because McCain is rich and so are his important campaign donors.”
His wife, Cindy McCain, has a fortune estimated at $100 million through her ownership of liquor distributor Hensley Beverage. The Senate bill’s cut in alcohol taxes would help her out. The bill also would help comfort McCain’s children after he dies, letting them inherit $22 million tax free, compared with an $11 million exemption under the current law. Of course, they’d do even better under the House version, which eliminates the estate tax (or “death tax” as House members call it) completely.
As for Jeff Flake, the other Republican Senator from my state, I don’t know what to make of him. He seems to have secured some kind of agreement from GOP leaders to support amnesty for immigrants brought without authorization to the United States as children (also known as Dreamers.) However, It’s hard to imagine what the House will do with it.
Flake isn’t seeking reelection, and this all seems like a Hail Mary attempt. I hope he succeeds, but I’m not counting on a score.
If I were our tweeting president, I’d say it all sounds a bit “flakey” – his nickname for Flake. But thankfully, I’m not like that. I’m just waiting in fear for the final version of the tax bill that makes it to the Oval Office.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Anonymous said...

We are afraid Tom and thank you for another insightful piece. Trusting McCain was like trusting a fearful dog and I mean no slur towards dogs of any sort. A fearful dog gives you hope that you can do something about circustances. You have faith in believing the dog has the potential to be trusted. Sometimes you're right and sometimes you get bitten. An aggressive dog is straight forward, no doubt about it and you're going to get hurt. In my opinion and in this instance I believe John McCain is a fearful dog and so many of us will be viciously torn apart because of the faith we put in him. Shame on us for being fooled.

Mary Walker Baron said...

Love you comments, Anonymous. Keep 'em coming.