Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Dear John McCain,

John, I lost my mom to the same aggressive disease you are facing, so we both know there is not much time.

Your vote on the last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the ACA, the Graham-Cassidy Bill, proposed by your pal Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-La), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) could be the last and most consequential vote of your entire career. Sure, there have been other big votes, but none where you were twice the “decider”—with the long-term wellbeing of so many Americans in your hands.

Will your July 25 “Role of the Senate” speech, upon returning to the senate floor after brain surgery, be remembered as the dramatic, moral-marker of a legendary maverick of the Senate? Or Exhibit A when studying political hypocrisy and a vote that would make Trump look honest by comparison?

John, if America returns to the bad old days of coverage caps, medical bankruptcy, rejection for pre-existing conditions, substance abuse, maternity and other benefits no longer required, along with a mammoth reduction in Medicaid funds for the poor and most vulnerable, your vote could result in more U.S. deaths than the Vietnam war.

John, let’s revisit some of the words you delivered so emotionally on the Senate floor only a few weeks ago:

Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. Our arcane rules and customs are deliberatively intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered Members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.

John, Cassidy-Graham isn’t a compromise, and you know it. Are you ready to bet the CBO is wrong by a factor of 30 million?

I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and, by so doing, better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

John, are you listening to the American Medical Association? Are you listening to AARP? Are you listening to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which cover 106 million Americans today with both business and ACA plans? Are you listening to the American Hospital Association? Are you listening to the pediatricians, psychiatrists, obstetricians, gynecologists, and probably the doctors who have been treating you? Is it possible the leading associations representing seniors, hospitals, nurses, doctors and the country’s largest insurer are all wrong? And Donald Trump and Tom Price are right?

Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order.

John, does this rushed process, without hearings, without a CBO score, feel like regular order to you?

We have tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical Members, trying to convince them it is better than nothing—that it is better than nothing—asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don’t think that is going to work in the end and probably shouldn’t.

John, is it even remotely possible to speak these words and vote for Cassidy-Graham without being exposed as an epic hypocrite?

Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate—the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. Let’s see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.

John, you know damn well Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Sen. Patty Murphy (D-Washington) have been working together these past months to find a bipartisan senate solution before being derailed yesterday by Cassidy-Graham. You know damn well 40 House members, calling themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus, have been working toward bipartisan health care solutions. Who are you listening to, John?

And the times when I was involved, even in a modest way with working on a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat, are the proudest moments of my career and by far the most satisfying.

John, reread your speech, every day, morning, noon and night, until the vote next week. Think about your legacy, and the “role of the Senate” you so eloquently defended. Make the proudest moment of your career a no-vote on Cassidy-Graham. Hold your ground, and be remembered as a maverick of the Senate and a man of his word.