Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not usually one for doomed gestures or abstract ideals.
So why on earth is he scheduling a sure-loser vote on Obamacare "repeal today; replacement later?” Yes, President Trump has requested it—but McConnell has long since learned how to manage Trump’s fleeting mental vagaries. If this vote is held, it’s because McConnell wants it, fully aware that it will lose.
The stated motive for the vote is to appease congressional conservatives who claim they really and truly want to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, root and branch. There is a lot of reason to doubt the sincerity of these conservatives, and especially the noisiest of them, Kentucky’s Rand Paul. Rather than “repeal and replace” Paul's strategy looks more like "denounce and preserve.” As noted here in March:
[It] is Kentucky’s Appalachian Southeast that has seen the biggest gains from the ACA. And it so happens that southeastern Kentucky voted more staunchly for Paul’s 2016 reelection than did any other section of the state.
Paul won 76.6 percent of the vote in Clay County, where 15.6 percent of the total population has gained coverage via the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. He won 81.5 percent of the vote in Jackson County, where 15.1 percent owe their Medicaid to the ACA. He won 84 percent in Leslie County, where 18 percent would lose Medicaid if Obamacare were repealed.
But even if Senate conservatives do truly crave one more opportunity to put their feelings about ACA on record, why would McConnell accede? Republicans have already burned without result one-fourth of their best opportunity since the 1920s to remake government. Why waste yet another fleeting week?