Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) surprised many when she threw her support behind the Republicans’ tax plan on Friday. Among other things, independent estimates showed that the GOP proposal would leave 13 million Americans without health insurance, and that’s ordinarily the sort of thing the Maine Republican would care about.
As part of an explanation, Collins said she’d reached an agreement with party leaders for votes on two other pieces of legislation, which she believes would mitigate the harm done by the GOP tax plan. There are, however, two problems with this, the first being that the proposals Collins has in mind appear inadequate to address the systemic harm done by her party’s proposal.
The second problem is that Collins’ deal didn’t guarantee success in the House. The Hill reported yesterday:
Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office told a meeting of congressional leadership offices on Monday that the Speaker is not part of a deal to get ObamaCare fixes passed before the end of the year, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a commitment to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that he would support passage of two bipartisan ObamaCare bills before the end of the year, a promise that helped win her vote for tax reform.
However, Ryan’s office told a meeting of staff from the four top congressional leadership offices on Monday that he has not made that same commitment, raising further questions about whether the ObamaCare bills, already opposed by House conservatives, can pass the House.
The Daily Beast had a related report on Monday, noting, “House conservatives are already indicating that they’re prepared to block some of the key legislative promises that Senate Republicans demanded in exchange for their votes on tax reform legislation.”
All things considered, it’s premature to say Collins will definitely walk away empty handed. It’s possible Paul Ryan will back the health care bills and they can overcome far-right opposition. It’s also possible the measures will be tied to a must-pass spending bill and House Republicans will grudgingly go along.
The fact that Donald Trump apparently promised Collins he’ll back her proposals will likely work in her favor if the president honors his commitment.
But it’s also easy to imagine Collins having reached a deal that will soon fall apart. As New York’s Ed Kilgore wrote yesterday, the Maine senator appears to have secured a promise “written in vanishing ink.”