Before we get started – This post is about Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the unarmed submarine we sent to Washington. We know he’s there. It just doesn’t matter. But we learned how much worse it could be last week when our friends in Alabama lived down to every stereotype and moved one step closer to sending Roy Moore to the Senate. The election of Moore to the Senate will allow the residents of 49 states the opportunity to say, “Our Senator may be ineffective and beholden to the lobbyists, but at least we don’t live in Alabama”.
It was finally time for Rob Portman to speak. Now that the Graham-Cassidy health plan was safely shelved, now that there was no danger that he would have to take a public position, now that speaking was totally irrelevant, NOW Rob Portman was ready to publicly declare his position. And his position was? “…I did what I always do: read the bill, listened to experts and tried to secure changes to help Ohio.” The quote is from his letter to the Plain Dealer that appeared Friday, September 29, 2017. Oh Rob, were that it were true!
Let’s go back two weeks. Senators Graham and Cassidy surprised the nation with one more, last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare. Their concept was simple, pretend to have a workable plan to pay for the nation’s healthcare with underfunded block grants and hope that nobody noticed. Careful observers may have concluded that Lindsay Graham just wanted some TV time and the opportunity to prove that he was more than John McCain’s buddy. As anyone who has seen a Bill Cassidy presentation (just once, but it was more than enough) can attest, Senator Cassidy has a real need to put forth programs, regardless of feasibility or the possibility of passage, in an effort to be perceived as an expert in this area. After all, he was/is a doctor. So, realistically, this whole effort was cynical, half-baked and doomed to failure if it didn’t pass by accident.
Even though he is Graham’s best friend, John McCain quickly declared himself a NO vote. Senator Collins expressed serious doubts, but said that she would wait until the CBO score was released. The bill’s sponsors weren’t bashful about their attempt to bribe Senator Murkowski of Alaska. The Republicans needed 50 or their 52 Senators to vote YES. That would let Vice-president Pence break the tie. Senator Rand Paul claimed that he was a NO vote, but many political observers saw this as a bargaining position. Republican leadership was ready to call his bluff. Anyone following the news was familiar with these Senators, their positions, and their history on this issue. No one asked how Senator Inhofe (R-OK) planned to vote. He was a solid YES, regardless of the bill. So was Rob Portman.
Now Mr. Portman might disagree with this characterization, but Mr. Portman voted for the Skinny Repeal, that legislative abomination in July. Portman and others in his caucus sat quietly and prayed that Murkowski, Collins, and McCain would save them, and the American public, from Trumpcare(less). Any credibility he had on the issue disappeared that night. Graham-Cassidy was an opportunity to reassert himself. His torpedo tubes were empty.
I have written to Senator Portman several times this past year as important bills were up for his consideration. My efforts have earned me form letters and a weekly newsletter highlighting his accomplishments. He seems to focus on the serious issue of human trafficking and is willing to work across the aisle with Democrats as long as money isn’t involved. He has already expressed his joy about the new tax cuts (please don’t call if reform) and other legislation that is created without any input from the Dems. His newsletters tend to go directly to my Spam file.
Senator Portman may claim that he is studying healthcare legislation and meeting with experts while he is, in truth, waiting for other Republican Senators to torpedo these awful bills. It is OK. We know the truth. And we will still thank G-d that he’s not Roy Moore.