The Unusual Moral Reason McCain Is Voting "No" on the GOP Health Care Bill

Sen. John McCain announced he'll be voting against GOP legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.


Sen. John McCain announced in a statement that he’ll be voting against the Graham-Cassidy Republican health care bill, a decision that puts the GOP legislation in serious jeopardy.

The announcement is surprising not only because Graham and Cassidy are personal friends of McCain, but also because he's objecting to the process behind the legislation, not its policy.

McCain wrote that he “cannot in good conscience” vote for the bill because it hasn’t gone through Congress with “regular order,” and that he would have considered voting for it if it had been the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment.” He added that the “specter” of the GOP’s budget reconciliation deadline of Sept. 30 has hung over the entire process.

I cannot in good conscience vote for Graham-Cassidy. A bill impacting so many lives deserves a bipartisan approach. https://t.co/2sDjhw6Era pic.twitter.com/30OWezQpLg

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 22, 2017

Moral reasoning—how we decide between right and wrong in given circumstances—often evaluates the outcomes of an event, especially in matters of public policy. Some individuals, for example, oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill for not guaranteeing patient protections while ceding much authority over healthcare to state governments. But McCain judges the process by which legislation is crafted as morally significant. Such a defense of institutional regularity is not surprising from a member of the Conservative party, and it's not the first time the Arizona Republican has used term “regular order” to criticize the legislation:

“Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order,” McCain said on the senate floor in July. “We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.”

In fact, the moral value of preserving "regular order" in the Senate appears to outweigh McCain's moral approval for the GOP healthcare bill, perhaps because he believes that jettisoning "regular order" will adversely affect every single piece of following legislation. So what exactly does McCain mean by a return to “regular order”?

McCain is essentially calling for Congress to play by the rules and precedents that have guided U.S. lawmaking for generations. It’s an argument against special task forces and closed-door meetings, and a call for a more bipartisan and (consequently) slower approach to government. This would theoretically imbue laws with broader appeal and a longer lifespan, as McCain wrote:

“We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do. The issue is too important, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach.”

Still, “regular order remains open to interpretation.

In my view, there's no such thing as 'regular order, said Sarah Binder, a procedural expert at George Washington University and the Brookings Institution, to the Washington Post.

According to Binders, calling for “regular order” could mean a number of things: less filibustering, more bipartisanship, the idea that committees should craft policy rather than leadership. It's open to interpretation. And, as Amber Phillips writes for the Washington Post, there are a few practical roadblocks to returning to McCain's idea of "regular order":

  • The Republic Party is divided ideologically
  • The digital era has increased the power of outside interests on politics
  • President Trump is publicly attempting to influence GOP lawmakers 
  • Centuries-old protections for the minority party have been thrown out by both Democrats and Republicans in recent years
  • Party leadership, i.e. the President, is publicly pushing against regular order:
  • The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2017

    --

    LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

    Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

    Getty Images
    Sponsored
    Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

    No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

    Keep reading Show less

    Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

    It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

    Think Again Podcasts
    • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
    • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
    Keep reading Show less

    Physicists puzzled by strange numbers that could explain reality

    Eight-dimensional octonions may hold the clues to solve fundamental mysteries.

    Surprising Science
    • Physicists discover complex numbers called octonions that work in 8 dimensions.
    • The numbers have been found linked to fundamental forces of reality.
    • Understanding octonions can lead to a new model of physics.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth

    Upload your mind? Here's a reality check on the Singularity.

    Videos
    • Though computer engineers claim to know what human consciousness is, many neuroscientists say that we're nowhere close to understanding what it is, or its source.
    • Scientists are currently trying to upload human minds to silicon chips, or re-create consciousness with algorithms, but this may be hubristic because we still know so little about what it means to be human.
    • Is transhumanism a journey forward or an escape from reality?
    Keep reading Show less