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Don't count on John McCain to follow through on his posturing

John McCain issued a statement yesterday criticizing his party's health care plan. But if you're waiting for him to vote against it, you'll be disappointed.
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) listens during a news conference on the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi Feb. 14, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) listens during a news conference on the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi Feb. 14, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 

Now that the latest iteration of the Senate Republicans' health care plan is available, health care advocates are keeping a close eye on the head-count. Two GOP senators have announced their opposition, but to kill the bill, critics of the far-right bill will need a third.

According to the Washington Post, however, there's already a third. In addition to Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose opposition is unambiguous, the Post's head-count, as of this morning, showed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as another "no" vote.

And while I think that's a mistake, I can understand why the newspaper reached such a conclusion. McCain issued a written statement yesterday that sounded a very critical note about his party's bill and the process that created it.

"The revised Senate health care bill released today does not include the measures I have been advocating for on behalf of the people of Arizona. That's why if the Senate takes up this legislation, I intend to file amendments that would address the concerns raised by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and other leaders across our state about the bill's impact on Arizona's Medicaid system. Arizona has been nationally recognized for running one of the most efficient and cost-effective Medicaid programs in the country."This legislation should reward states like Arizona that are responsibly managing their health care services and controlling costs -- not penalize them."

The statement added that if the GOP plan falls short again, McCain wants the Senate to "hold hearings and receive input from senators of both parties, and produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to affordable and quality health care."

Taken at face value, this certainly sounds like a senator who doesn't like his party's legislation and is fully prepared to vote against it, laying the groundwork for a different approach he prefers more.

There is, however, no reason to accept the statement at face value -- because John McCain has a track record.

Earlier this year, for example, Donald Trump nominated Rex Tillerson, who's enjoyed close ties with Vladimir Putin's Russian government, to serve as Secretary of State. McCain was asked whether there was a "realistic scenario" in which he'd vote to confirm such a nominee to serve as the nation's chief diplomat. "Sure," the Arizona Republican replied. "There's also a realistic scenario that pigs fly."

Soon after, McCain voted for Tillerson anyway.

This wasn't an isolated incident. The longtime GOP senator frequently generates attention by raising "concerns" about various partisan priorities, but McCain has shown very little follow-through. The New Republic recently said the Arizonan is "all bark, no bite" for a reason.

On health care, I don't doubt that McCain will, as his press statement said, "file amendments" with changes he'd like to see, but if those amendments fail, will he vote for his party's legislation anyway? Given his track record, it's a near certainty.

Update: It looks like the Washington Post changed its head-count, moving McCain from a "no" vote to a senator who "has concerns."