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On Tuesday, after other Republican senators took actual public positions in behalf of their states and settled the issue they'd cowered from, U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman emerged at long last to speak on health-care reform.

The time had come for them to exercise their lack of consequence.

First came Tom, and then, still looking anxiously about, ventured John.

Cotton appeared as he often does on conservative Hugh Hewitt's national radio show. That's the real constituency for his ambition. He said that, since replacing Obamacare was now out of the immediate question, he would of course vote to repeal Obamacare now and replace it later.

That's the old carpentry trick of tearing down a house and saying you'll be back in a couple of years after you've learned to drive a nail.

Cotton surely knew what already was being widely reported: The repeal-without-replacement tactic would not pass. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would schedule a roll call on it merely to let the neediest Republican senators cast a hollow losing-side vote for the idle concept so that they might better survive right-wing hate radio back home.

Speaking of that: Did you see what Joe Scarborough of the MSNBC Morning Joe program wrote Sunday in a guest column in the Washington Post about the Republican Party he has abandoned? He wrote that the GOP wasn't a political party anymore but an "amalgam of talk-radio resentments."

Sure enough, within a couple of hours, three moderate Republican women senators had come forward to do the real work that Cotton and Boozman shirked. They announced that they would vote against repealing without replacing. They believed that carpenters ought not to tear down if they couldn't immediately build anew.

Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska took other Republican senators off the hook. Ohio's Rob Portman, a decent man influenced by a great governor in John Kasich, indicated he'd likely be "no" as well.

That freed as many as 48 Republican senators to play charades with their votes if they wanted. And our two guys sure-enough wanted.

Boozman, who mainly wants to be left alone to take constituents on tours and have his picture taken with them, crept into the public hours later and more cautiously than Cotton.

In midafternoon, long after his three women colleagues had behaved as leaders rather than followers, Boozman gave an interview to Talk Business and Politics in Little Rock, which he had stonewalled for weeks. He said, golly, shucks, doggone, it's too bad we couldn't work everything out, but that, yeah, he'd now vote to repeal Obamacare and worry about replacement later.

Mitch said it'd be all right, and John likes Mitch almost as much as Don likes Vladimir.

Vital Medicaid expansion in Arkansas will continue. If you like Medicaid expansion, Cotton and Boozman will be fine with your thinking they were for it all along. If you oppose Medicaid expansion, they'll be fine with your thinking they were trying their hardest to kill it.

Meantime, the only leading Arkansas Republican figure who behaved well through debate--Gov. Asa Hutchinson--went a little Boozmany on us Tuesday.

With his vital Medicaid expansion money saved and his senators protected from the inconvenience of taking a position, Asa was reminded that he had said days before that it was a "bad idea" to repeal Obamacare without having a replacement locked down. That would be entirely too unsettling for the states, he had said.

But on Tuesday he didn't really want to say that again outright. That's because it would undercut the fine game of charades that Cotton and Boozman were playing.

The governor put out this statement: "I have consistently said it is important to know where we are going with a replacement bill at the same time we repeal. Now it has been announced that the Senate bill does not have the votes. I look forward to discussing any future action with Senator Boozman and Senator Cotton."

I read that statement several times before posting on Twitter that I believed the governor was seeking to send a subliminal message to the discerning reader that he did not support repealing without replacing but didn't see any point of making a big deal of disagreeing with the inconsequential expediencies of his two senators.

I sent the governor's press office a message that I had made a post on Twitter seeking to read between the governor's tap-dance steps, and that I'd delete and correct the post if it was wrong.

I haven't heard anything.

As it turned out, Hutchinson had been confronted in the interim by live Arkansas reporters--an inconvenience of the governor's job--and answered that, yeah, OK, it's a bad idea to repeal without replacing and a bipartisan initiative is needed.

For a governor representing an amalgam of talk-radio resentments, Asa ain't bad.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 07/20/2017

Print Headline: Face the inconsequential


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Archived Comments

  • TimberTopper
    July 20, 2017 at 5:34 a.m.

    John, you've hit the nail on the head with this one. The senators(small case on purpose) neither have the guts nor backbone to be worth a damn in their positions.

  • BoudinMan
    July 20, 2017 at 6:19 a.m.

    Why are these 2 pettifogging, frilly, frous-frous types still hanging around? Why do we allow it? Can't we find suitable replacement parts? Sheesh!

  • 23cal
    July 20, 2017 at 6:32 a.m.

    Let's hear it for the lady know, the ones with bigger cojones than our senators.

  • WGT
    July 20, 2017 at 7:09 a.m.

    Republicans are an absolute waste. Spineless,no frickin balls, greedy, feckless, obstinate panty wastes. Somebody go get Bernie Sanders and let's show these sorry nitwits that Single Payer Healthcare is the only viable option.

  • windsor2200
    July 20, 2017 at 7:47 a.m.

    Agree WGT, obstinate panty waists. (Spell check is a pain, no?)

  • Jfish
    July 20, 2017 at 7:48 a.m.

    I guess what I don't understand is the rush to repeal it. Most of the experts that I have heard weigh in recently say now that it has been fully enacted, it will likely fail under its own weight. Repealing with nothing to replace is not very smart. Boudin, the dems are hung up on the electoral college, russian collusion and political correctness rather than the pertinent stories and issues, that is why the republicans are winning easily right now. They will figure it out eventually and the pendulum will swing back their way, it will just take a while.

  • hah406
    July 20, 2017 at 8:38 a.m.

    JFish, I don't know what experts you are listening to except on Fox or GOP hate radio, but where it is FULLY enacted, including Medicaid expansion such as here in Arkansas, it is not failing at all. The only places it is troubled are non-expansion states and extremely rural areas with very low population density. The latter could be fixed easily by congress if they wanted to do so. The former could be fixed if stubborn GOP state lawmakers would do so.

  • Rightside
    July 20, 2017 at 8:40 a.m.

    President Obama increased the US debt in his first 6 months more than $974 Billion or nearly $1 Trillion. The difference between Presidents Trump and Obama is more than $1 Trillion. President Trump added a projected 1,027,000 jobs in his first six months (January through June 2017.) President Obama on the other hand lost more than 3,826,000 million jobs in his first six months. The unemployment rate in January 2017 was 4.8% and by June it was down to 4.4%. Unemployment under President Obama on the other hand moved in the opposite direction. In his first six months under President Obama the US unemployment rate increased each month from 7.8% in January 2009 to 9.5% by June of 2009. US inflation rate decreased to an eight month low in June to 1.6%. Nearly twice as many US housing sales in the past couple of months as there were under President Obama in 2009 during the same time period. The US Manufacturing Index soared to a 33 year high in President Trump’s first six months which was the best number since 1983 under President Reagan. Illegal immigration is down almost 70% under President Trump. NATO announced Allied spending is up $10 Billion because of President Trump. Stock Market Has Added $4 Trillion in Value Since His Election.
    Harvard researchers found that CNN's Trump coverage was 93 percent negative, and seven percent positive. The researchers found the same numbers for NBC.
    The Washington Post and the main newscasts on CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC during Mr. Trump’s first 100 days. No shocker here: 80 percent was negative.

  • Whippersnapper
    July 20, 2017 at 8:51 a.m.

    Obamacare as passed does not include authorization for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies, and Republicans sued when Obama tried to make the payments without a law authorizing them. Trump has said he may stop those payments, and if he does, many insurance companies have said they will have to hike premiums by 25-50% or drop out of the exchanges. THAT is the collapse - there will be no options on many exchanges, not just the few that currently have no options going into this fall's enrollment.

  • 23cal
    July 20, 2017 at 9:09 a.m.

    About "President Obama increased the US debt in his first 6 months more than $974 Billion or nearly $1 Trillion.' You are probably unaware that the first six months of his term were still under the Bush budget, so you can place the blame for that where it belongs: Bush.
    About "President Trump added a projected 1,027,000 jobs in his first six months (January through June 2017.)" See above: we are still working under the Obama budget. You might also want to note that this is just a continuation of the pace that has been going on under Obama for the prior 74 months. Give credit where due.
    About "President Obama on the other hand lost more than 3,826,000 million jobs in his first six months." You might want to note this is a continuation of what he inherited from Bush, which was losing 700,000 jobs per month when Obama took office. He went from losing 700,000 jobs per month which he inherited to a 74 month run of gaining around 200,000 jobs per month on average, which is a 900,000 job per month turnaround. Compare that to your boy Trump.
    About " Unemployment under President Obama on the other hand moved in the opposite direction. In his first six months under President Obama the US unemployment rate increased each month from 7.8% in January 2009 to 9.5% by June of 2009." The first six months were under the Bush budget. Give blame where due.

    And so on. Bottom line: figures don't lie, but liars do figure. The simple truth is that Trump was handed a humming economic machine due to Obama, and Obama was handed the worst recession since the Great Depression thanks to the prior Republican administration. Also, david doesn't grasp the simplest things about how federal budgets work.