In the big picture the biggest winners last night were the tens of millions of Americans who get to keep their health care, and ultimately, their lives. In the political arena the biggest winner was Senator John McCain, with President Barack Obama coming a close second. But for as much damage as he suffered last night, the biggest loser wasn’t necessarily Donald Trump. Instead it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who may now lose that job.
Trump desperately needed a win he could tout, because he hasn’t had any to date, and he’s in danger of losing his remaining supporters outside his base. And Trump desperately wanted this one, because in his mind the health care vote was only ever a pissing contest between him and Obama. But it was Mitch McConnell who put down most of his remaining chips on this particular strategy of breaking Senate rules to try to ram through half a health care bill in the middle of the night.
The stakes grew even higher when John McCain returned from brain cancer treatment to cast the deciding vote — and he ended up dragging out the moment for three days just to teach McConnell a painful lesson about breaking those rules. So not only did McConnell lose badly after betting big, he was defeated by his own ally whom he can’t get away with criticizing.
But really, McConnell lost this battle when he couldn’t get Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski on board to begin with. Senate Republicans decided this week that they no longer need to listen to Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell when it comes to figuring out what’s best for themselves. How long before one of them senses that McConnell is the problem, and mounts an effort to try to oust him as Majority Leader?
The Republican Party has become far too chaotic and unstable to predict what the outcome might be, if and when the effort to oust Mitch McConnell gets underway. But that merely speaks further to the point: despite having control of the White House as well as both houses of Congress, the Republicans can’t seem to get anything done. Even when Trump was taken out of the equation last night, they still ended up going in circles and taking themselves down. As more Republican Senators decide their best move is to bet against their own party’s failed leadership, McConnell will be the most likely scapegoat.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report