The news last night was in line with expectations, but was nevertheless extraordinary: Senate Republicans really are moving forward with plans to hold a vote next week on a health care overhaul, bringing a still-secret bill to the floor. There will be no hearings, no testimony from industry stakeholders or subject-matter experts, and no meaningful deliberation among lawmakers themselves.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, apparently flabbergasted, wrote on Twitter, “This is quite literally unprecedented. I’ve run out of adjectives for it. It’s like a legislative heist.”
The more I thought about it, the more I liked that analogy.
To a very real extent, Americans have already seen Senate Republicans pull off one of the most important political heists in at least a generation. GOP senators recently stole a Supreme Court seat, taking it from one administration and handing it to another, affecting the direction of American jurisprudence for decades.
Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared, “One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, ‘You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy.’” As regular readers know, this is the kind of pride one feels when they steal something and know they’ve gotten away with it.
But just as every great heist movie seems to get a sequel, McConnell & Co. may be pulling off an even bigger robbery in plain sight.
Consider what goes into every successful heist:
The heist always culminates in the theft itself, which in this case involves stealing millions of Americans’ health benefits, stashing the savings in the bank accounts of the wealthy in the form of needless tax breaks.
In the process, congressional Republicans are also grabbing the American policymaking process, throwing it in the dumper behind the Capitol, as a necessary part of executing the plot worked out behind closed doors.
We don’t yet know whether GOP officials will pull off this heist to the thieves’ satisfaction, but just as importantly, it’s not at all clear how those who are being stolen from will respond once they come to terms with the robbery.