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

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    Drill, Baby, Drill: What will we look for when we mine on Mars?

    It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back

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    • In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
    • Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
    • The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points

    Want to go to Mars? It will cost you. In 2016, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that manned missions to the planet may cost approximately $10 billion per person. As with any expensive endeavor, it is inevitable that sufficient returns on investment will be needed in order to sustain human presence on Mars. So, what's underneath all that red dust?

    Mining Technology reported in 2017 that "there are areas [on Mars], especially large igneous provinces, volcanoes and impact craters that hold significant potential for nickel, copper, iron, titanium, platinum group elements and more."

    Were a SpaceX-like company to establish a commercial mining presence on the planet, digging up these materials will be sure to provoke a fraught debate over environmental preservation in space, Martian land rights, and the slew of microbial unknowns which Martian soil may bring.

    In National Geographic Channel's genre-bending narrative-docuseries, MARS, (the second season premieres tonight, November 12th, 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT) this dynamic is explored as astronauts from an international scientific coalition go head-to-head with industrial miners looking to exploit the planet's resources.

    Given the rate of consumption of minerals on Earth, there is plenty of reason to believe that there will be demand for such an operation.

    "Almost all of the easily mined gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, antimony, and phosphorus we can mine on Earth may be gone within one hundred years" writes Stephen Petranek, author of How We'll Live on Mars, which Nat Geo's MARS is based on. That grim scenario will require either a massive rethinking of how we consume metals on earth, or supplementation from another source.

    Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, told Petranek that it's unlikely that even if all of Earth's metals were exhausted, it is unlikely that Martian materials could become an economically feasible supplement due to the high cost of fuel required to return the materials to Earth. "Anything transported with atoms would have to be incredibly valuable on a weight basis."

    Actually, we've already done some of this kind of resource extraction. During NASA's Apollo missions to the Moon, astronauts used simple steel tools to collect about 842 pounds of moon rocks over six missions. Due to the high cost of those missions, the Moon rocks are now highly valuable on Earth.


    Moon rock on display at US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL (Big Think/Matt Carlstrom)

    In 1973, NASA valuated moon rocks at $50,800 per gram –– or over $300,000 today when adjusted for inflation. That figure doesn't reflect the value of the natural resources within the rock, but rather the cost of their extraction.

    Assuming that Martian mining would be done with the purpose of bringing materials back to Earth, the cost of any materials mined from Mars would need to include both the cost of the extraction and the value of the materials themselves. Factoring in the price of fuel and the difficulties of returning a Martian lander to Earth, this figure may be entirely cost prohibitive.

    What seems more likely, says Musk, is for the Martian resources to stay on the Red Planet to be used for construction and manufacturing within manned colonies, or to be used to support further mining missions of the mineral-rich asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

    At the very least, mining on Mars has already produced great entertainment value on Earth: tune into Season 2 of MARS on National Geographic Channel.

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