Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returned to the Senate to lecture his colleagues about returning to regular order, the necessity of compromise and the necessity of shutting up and tuning out the most bombastic voices. He told his colleagues:
"(Senate debates) are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we'd all agree they haven't been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren't producing much for the American people.
"Both sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they'll find we all conspired in our decline — either by deliberate actions or neglect. We've all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I've let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy."
He argued: "Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them. They don't want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood."
Although he had voted to proceed on a strictly party-line vote on a nebulous bill, he stated: "Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. 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. That's an approach that's been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires."
He reiterated he'd be a no vote on the current health care bill — further underscoring that Tuesday's vote still leaves the GOP short of a majority for any particular bill.
He admonished Republicans: "We've tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it's better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don't think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn't."
It was a powerful speech that surely would have packed more punch had he voted against a bill and a process that violated many of the principles he outlined. Denying his party the chance to debate was, however, a bridge too far. The vote allows Republicans to claim they didn't vote to preserve "Obamacare," but without committing them to a replacement. In other words, it was a means by which members could deflect blame but take no responsibility for their actions.
We dearly hope McCain does cast many more votes, including one to bury this monstrosity. If he does, his chiding of his party's Senate leadership will ring true.
"What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We're not getting much done apart," he advised. "I don't think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn't the most inspiring work. There's greater satisfaction in respecting our differences but not letting them prevent agreements that don't require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people."
The Senate is already a smaller place, a shadow of its former august self. One shudders to think how much worse it will be without McCain.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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