The news on the Republican failure to pass an alternative to the Affordable Care Act is several days old now, but the gendered dynamics are classic, so I have to throw in my two cents.
Friday morning, around 2 am, my partner woke me up as he got into bed. He had stayed up to watch the drama in the Senate and felt compelled to share the final outcome with me. The guy isn’t into sports, so this was kind of the equivalent of his World Series extra innings game. I had gone to bed around 11. If the Republicans were going to destroy health care, I could read about it when my alarm went off at 5:30.
“Skinny repeal failed,” he said. “McCain, Murkowski, and Collins voted against it.”
“Uh huh,” I said, groggily, and fell back asleep.
A few hours later, I get up and check my phone. A news alert from the Washington Post:
News Alert: Senate narrowly rejects measure to partly repeal Affordable Care Act, dealing major setback to GOP leaders
I click on the link, and begin reading a riveting tale of the heroism of John McCain. Someone is eventually going to make a movie about this.
Former POW becomes Senator. Decades later has surgery to remove blood clot and is diagnosed with brain cancer. Makes surprise return to the Senate. Delivers stirring speech calling for bipartisanship. Votes against his party’s attempt to fulfill 7 years of campaign promise, but in turn saves the American people.
It’s a great story, right? But let’s not forget why McCain’s vote mattered. The only reason McCain was the 51st vote against the skinny repeal was because two women – Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – have principles and took a lot of bullshit.
I will note that, because I follow a fair number of gender and politics scholars on Twitter, I saw a lot of recognition that McCain wasn’t exactly the savior everyone made him out to be:
Tomorrow the headlines will focus on McCain, but let’s not forget it was Susan Collins and Senator Murkowski who held the line all the way. https://t.co/J2TWixYHC9
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) July 28, 2017
People will call John McCain the maverick, but Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have been consistent in words and actions all along…(1/2)
— Matthew Mendez (@MattyMendez) July 28, 2017
One last thing… If you want to *credit* anyone in the GOP, let it be Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Peace.
— #SuperLeft2017 (@prisonculture) July 28, 2017
It appears the Republican Party has all but given up on Susan Collins; certainly Republicans on Twitter seem to be very upset. And that seems to suit her well – when she went home to Maine they spontaneously burst into applause at the airport. And this morning on State of the Union with Jake Tapper, she seemed pretty confident that anything party leadership could throw at her wouldn’t push her vote. *snaps for Susan Collins*
Lisa Murkowski had the great fortune of being the subject of one of Trump’s tweets, though he didn’t give her a nickname (Is Trump get lazy? Was it too difficult to think of something that would pair well with Murkowski?). And apparently both Murkowski and the other Senator from Alaska were called up by the Secretary of Interior and essentially told that they have a nice state, and it would be a shame if something were to happen to it.
[Which brings up a tangential point – Murkowski’s whole argument was that the deal would be bad for the people of Alaska; health insurance is expensive in the frozen tundra. So why wasn’t the male Senator from Alaska also protecting the citizens of the state? My guess is that he’s up for re-election sooner than Murkowski, who just got re-elected in 2016, but it’s still lame. He knew just as well as she did that the skinny repeal wouldn’t have worked for the people of Alaska, but I guess only the female representative has to actually be concerned with taking care of the people she’s representing?]
Silly, silly Trump administration though. If any of them had government experience, they’d know that Congress holds the purse strings and oversees executive department appointments. So it looks like those Interior Department nominees won’t be getting a vote any time soon… Murkowski says this isn’t revenge, but c’mon. Don’t fuck with her, is all I’m saying.
The moral of this story is, John McCain may have cast the deciding vote on this one, but let’s not forget the women who stood firm so that his savior moment would be possible.