Arizona Senator John McCain provided the biggest drama in the chamber’s late night saga Friday morning, casting the decisive third Republican “no” vote against the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare.
The stripped down bill would have done away with the mandate to buy insurance, with the hope that a more wide ranging product would emerge from a House-Senate conference.
But if McCain was the most prominent player, each of Missouri’s two Senator’s had a role in the process amid a backdrop of Missouri politics.
Republican Roy Blunt took to the Senate floor in the early evening to speak out about the failures of Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. “This is the law that was going to reduce family costs by $2,500 a year” said Blunt. “Families are generally relieved if their insurance didn’t increase by $2,500 a year.”
Blunt is a second term Senator, who benefited from Donald Trump’s dominance in Missouri to eke out a three point win for reelection in last November’s election.
Columbia College Political Scientist Terry Smith thinks Blunt will be a weather-vane on healthcare because of his standing as a well-respected member of the Republican establishment who’s willing to work across the aisle. “For the non-rebellious Republicans who are basically wanting to repeal and replace, he’s going to be giving good signals for them” said Smith.
Blunt chairs an influential appropriations subcommittee as well as a subcommittee on aviation. He also sits on the high profile Senate Intelligence Committee that’s investigating Russian interference in the last election, and any ties that country has to the Trump election campaign.
Smith thinks Blunt is a rising star in the Senate GOP, who could soon take a lead role behind the scene. “He plays his cards right, and he certainly has been pretty savvy, he is looking like someone who has, in the next few years, real leadership potential in the Senate.”
According to Smith, Blunt is in a position early in his second term to raise large sums of money, give it to other candidates, and reap the benefits of being seen as an important player within the party.
But he thinks the Republicans themselves are in for a rocky ride after the late night blistering defeat. After pledging to scrap the health care law for seven years, he says the Republicans are a victim of their own rhetoric.
“The dog has caught the car and is wondering what to do now with the tire that’s in his teeth, and the car keeps moving.”
Smith thinks Republicans face a dilemma. He says repealing Obamacare will hurt many voters that swept President Trump into office, and reelected GOP members such as Blunt.
Missouri’s Democratic Senator, like her GOP counterpart, is towing the party line. Claire McCaskill is vocal about wanting Obamacare to be repaired, not repealed.
Among other things, she sponsored a bill to fix health care exchanges that have no insurers. The measure would allow people in affected counties to obtain insurance through “DC Health Link” where most members of Congress and their staff purchase plans.
Smith thinks McCaskill did the right thing to position herself for reelection next year. He acknowledges that Missouri is increasingly becoming a Republican stronghold. But he thinks McCaskill won’t be hurt by joining every other member of her party Thursday night to vote against the GOP repeal plan.
“First of all, I think this is what she believes as a Democrat. And secondly, I think it is the technically smart thing to do.”
As a Senator who’ll be running for her third term in 2018, McCaskill is the ranking minority party member of the Homeland Security Committee. She is also a member of the Commerce and Armed Services committees.
McCaskill is considered vulnerable by polling experts in next year’s vote. Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales rates her re-election race a Toss-up.
Smith gives the former Missouri State Auditor fair shot at holding onto her seat, noting she doesn’t back away when confronted by constituents in a red state who disagree with her.
“I thinks there’s some admiration for that” said Smith. “She’s battle tested and she’s not going to back down from a fight.”
Smith also thinks the Democratic Party will pour money into McCaskill’s reelection campaign in an effort to hold onto the seat.