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The Return of Maverick McCain Saves Obamacare

John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski did exactly what the Founders thought United States senators should do. Mitch McConnell and 48 other Republicans, not so much.

Wow. John McCain came through.

Thursday evening, as the workday ended, some colleagues and I checked in on the press conference McCain was having with Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson, and Bill Cassidy. They were saying basically that they’d vote yes on “skinny” repeal as long as they could be sure it failed. “I am not going to vote for the ‘skinny’ bill if I’m not assured by the House there will be a conference,” Graham said. We couldn’t bear to watch much, turned it off, and went for a drink.

John, John, John, we muttered; millions of liberals and moderates across the country were surely muttering. What are you doing?

Yes, he was a war hero, no one denies that. Well, someone does, actually, and you know who I mean. But liberals don’t. And he used to be a great senator. But all that was very, very long ago. Since 2008, when he caved in to the advisers who pushed Sarah Palin on him as his vice-presidential pick, he’s been a different guy.

And when he voted for the motion to proceed Tuesday, liberals thought: Really? You got up off of your cancer bed, where you’re getting Cadillac health-care paid for by us the taxpayers, and flew across the country to deny 20 million people health insurance? The mainstream media fell over themselves praising the speech he gave that day. Liberals hated it. Sure, pretty words, but they’re completely at odds with that shameful vote you just cast. What a phony.

Well, no more. He did the right thing. He cast a historic vote. Of course, it shouldn’t have come to this. No one should have voted for this travesty, written over lunch and not designed to fix anything; cynically reverse-engineered just to get 50 votes, damn the substance. It didn’t deserve one vote, let alone 49.

McCain’s vote—and Susan Collins’s and Lisa Murkowski’s; let’s not get so overwhelmed with McCainmania that we forget these brave women—will rightly go down in Senate history. Earlier in the week, James Fallows wrote a terrific piece comparing, unfavorably, McCain to long-ago California Senator Clair Engle, a Democrat, who in 1964 was wheeled into the Senate chamber to cast a vote for civil rights. Engle, too, had cancer. He couldn’t speak. When the clerk called his name, he pointed to his eye to indicate he was voting “aye.”

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