The latest legislative confrontation over Obamacare — the setting aside of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s bailout of health insurance companies in favor of delayed repeal — is a victory all by itself.
Of course, this being Washington, D.C. we’re talking about, we are more likely to be a short time from that victory collapsing rather than becoming reality, but my mama also taught me beggars can’t be choosers. So smoke ’em if you got ’em.
Which is why we should be singing Hosannas right now in celebration of a man who in no way looks the part of a superhero, but who through a generally quiet and dignified devotion to principle continues to do his part to save this country and the GOP from themselves.
I’m talking about Sen. Mike Lee.
It was shortly after he said he would not support the “Making Democrat Majorities Great Again in 2018 Act” that GOP leadership pulled the bill. There could be no cloture vote without Lee as one of the 51 required votes. So now an actual (almost) repeal bill, which was also engineered by Lee and successfully approved via the reconciliation process in 2015, will come up to bat once again.
Since that bill would be implemented on a two-year delay, it is fair to say, then, that Lee will ultimately be more responsible than anyone in American politics, with the obvious exception of President Trump, at defining the atmosphere and the talking points for the 2018 midterms.
They will be a referendum on the failure of Obamacare. At least until Republicans manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once more, or Don Jr. releases an email that shows he considered becoming a Russian citizen.
Whichever comes first.
But for now, let us celebrate that one man standing in the gap can still make a difference — provided at least one man is willing to do so. Lee not only showed that he is such a man, but he rose to the occasion despite the fact it required an extra degree of difficulty: telling the truth about an amendment that bore his name.
Let us also remember the high cost Democrats have paid for Obamacare thus far. They lost not only the presidency and both houses of Congress, but governorships and statehouse chambers across the entire country. We appear to have an electorate who, even though theoretically inclined toward embracing the slow creep of socialism, isn’t quite ready for it when confronted with its actual cost.
If that trend is still in play, Lee gets all the helmet stickers. Obamacare is one of the most hostile-to-liberty pieces of legislation in American history. It usurps freedom on so many fronts — religion, speech, taxation, economics, personal autonomy — that it clearly requires far more than fraudulent “root and branch” bumper stickers to drive a stake through its heart.
Defeating tyranny requires the sense of purpose and allegiance to liberty that originally helped Lee knock off a sitting U.S. senator back in 2010. While so many so-called “tea party champions” of that year have gone all Colonel Kurtz since arriving inside the 202, Lee is proving to be one of the rare exceptions, still dancing with the conservatives who brought him.
He appears to be growing stronger with each passing year, too. Often lost in the shadow of his fellow “wacko birds” Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Lee’s second term in the Senate may be poised to serve as the conscience of whatever conservatism is left to conserve around here.
There is no time to waste. Three GOP senators have already come forward to say they won’t vote for an almost-repeal — an almost-repeal that all three voted for in meaningless 2015 show votes, which Obama saved them from with his veto. But now that it’s time to sit at the grown-up table and eat real food, instead of playing magic airplane with mama and a spoonful of strained peas, their principles have magically changed. Which means they probably never had them to begin with.
May Sen. Lee continue to show them, and us, that there is a better way. At a time when killer anti-CNN memes and #Resist seem to be the best both sides of our fake debate have to offer, the moment is clearly now for a man with a moral compass who speaks softly but carries a big stick.