Face the in­con­se­quen­tial

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - John Brum­mett John Brum­mett, whose col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, was in­ducted into the Arkansas Writ­ers’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrum­mett@arkansason­line.com. Read his @john­brum­mett Twit­ter feed.

On Tues­day, af­ter other Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors took ac­tual pub­lic po­si­tions in be­half of their states and set­tled the is­sue they’d cow­ered from, U.S. Sens. Tom Cot­ton and John Booz­man emerged at long last to speak on health-care re­form.

The time had come for them to ex­er­cise their lack of con­se­quence.

First came Tom, and then, still look­ing anx­iously about, ven­tured John.

Cot­ton ap­peared as he of­ten does on con­ser­va­tive Hugh He­witt’s na­tional ra­dio show. That’s the real con­stituency for his am­bi­tion. He said that, since re­plac­ing Oba­macare was now out of the im­me­di­ate ques­tion, he would of course vote to re­peal Oba­macare now and re­place it later.

That’s the old car­pen­try trick of tear­ing down a house and say­ing you’ll be back in a cou­ple of years af­ter you’ve learned to drive a nail.

—————— Cot­ton surely knew what al­ready was be­ing widely re­ported: The re­peal­with­out-re­place­ment tactic would not pass. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell would sched­ule a roll call on it merely to let the need­i­est Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors cast a hol­low los­ing-side vote for the idle con­cept so that they might bet­ter sur­vive right-wing hate ra­dio back home.

Speak­ing of that:

Did you see what Joe Scar­bor­ough of the MSNBC Morn­ing Joe pro­gram wrote Sun­day in a guest col­umn in the Wash­ing­ton Post about the Re­pub­li­can Party he has aban­doned? He wrote that the GOP wasn’t a po­lit­i­cal party any­more but an “amal­gam of talk-ra­dio re­sent­ments.”

Sure enough, within a cou­ple of hours, three mod­er­ate Re­pub­li­can women sen­a­tors had come for­ward to do the real work that Cot­ton and Booz­man shirked. They an­nounced that they would vote against re­peal­ing with­out re­plac­ing. They be­lieved that car­pen­ters ought not to tear down if they couldn’t im­me­di­ately build anew.

Shel­ley Moore Capito of West Vir­ginia, Su­san Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska took other Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors off the hook. Ohio’s Rob Port­man, a de­cent man in­flu­enced by a great gover­nor in John Ka­sich, in­di­cated he’d likely be “no” as well.

That freed as many as 48 Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors to play cha­rades with their votes if they wanted. And our two guys sure-enough wanted.

Booz­man, who mainly wants to be left alone to take con­stituents on tours and have his pic­ture taken with them, crept into the pub­lic hours later and more cau­tiously than Cot­ton.

In midafter­noon, long af­ter his three women col­leagues had be­haved as lead­ers rather than fol­low­ers, Booz­man gave an in­ter­view to Talk

Busi­ness and Pol­i­tics in Lit­tle Rock, which he had stonewalled for weeks. He said, golly, shucks, dog­gone, it’s too bad we couldn’t work ev­ery­thing out, but that, yeah, he’d now vote to re­peal Oba­macare and worry about re­place­ment later.

Mitch said it’d be all right, and John likes Mitch al­most as much as Don likes Vladimir.

Vi­tal Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion in Arkansas will con­tinue. If you like Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, Cot­ton and Booz­man will be fine with your think­ing they were for it all along. If you op­pose Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, they’ll be fine with your think­ing they were try­ing their hard­est to kill it.

Mean­time, the only lead­ing Arkansas Re­pub­li­can fig­ure who be­haved well through de­bate—Gov. Asa Hutchin­son—went a lit­tle Booz­many on us Tues­day.

With his vi­tal Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion money saved and his sen­a­tors pro­tected from the in­con­ve­nience of tak­ing a po­si­tion, Asa was re­minded that he had said days be­fore that it was a “bad idea” to re­peal Oba­macare with­out hav­ing a re­place­ment locked down. That would be en­tirely too un­set­tling for the states, he had said.

But on Tues­day he didn’t re­ally want to say that again out­right. That’s be­cause it would un­der­cut the fine game of cha­rades that Cot­ton and Booz­man were play­ing.

The gover­nor put out this state­ment: “I have con­sis­tently said it is im­por­tant to know where we are go­ing with a re­place­ment bill at the same time we re­peal. Now it has been an­nounced that the Se­nate bill does not have the votes. I look for­ward to dis­cussing any fu­ture ac­tion with Se­na­tor Booz­man and Se­na­tor Cot­ton.”

Iread that state­ment sev­eral times be­fore post­ing on Twit­ter that I be­lieved the gover­nor was seek­ing to send a sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage to the dis­cern­ing reader that he did not sup­port re­peal­ing with­out re­plac­ing but didn’t see any point of mak­ing a big deal of dis­agree­ing with the in­con­se­quen­tial ex­pe­di­en­cies of his two sen­a­tors.

I sent the gover­nor’s press of­fice a mes­sage that I had made a post on Twit­ter seek­ing to read be­tween the gover­nor’s tap-dance steps, and that I’d delete and cor­rect the post if it was wrong.

I haven’t heard any­thing.

As it turned out, Hutchin­son had been con­fronted in the in­terim by live Arkansas re­porters—an in­con­ve­nience of the gover­nor’s job—and an­swered that, yeah, OK, it’s a bad idea to re­peal with­out re­plac­ing and a bi­par­ti­san ini­tia­tive is needed.

For a gover­nor rep­re­sent­ing an amal­gam of talk-ra­dio re­sent­ments, Asa ain’t bad.

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