Update to 'Dear John' Letter: Now McCain Halts Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill

Update to 'Dear John' Letter: Now McCain Halts Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill
Miriam Wasser

This summer, I wrote an open letter to Arizona Senator John McCain, asking him to prevent the Republicans from steamrolling an unpopular health care bill through the Senate. Now, he may have done it twice. First cast the deciding vote that prevented the so-called "Skinny Repeal" of the Affordable Care Act from passing. Then Friday morning, he said he would vote against the Graham-Cassidy health care bill that some feared was even worse than "Skinny."

Thank you, Senator.

Here's the  original letter:

Dear John:

I think we understand each other.

We're both men of a certain age. We've both been doing our jobs a long, LONG time.

I started in journalism the year a man first walked on the moon. I'm guessing you even predate the moon.

We both know what it is to be the brash, young maverick. Maybe sometimes a bit too full of ourselves, so, despite our stellar records of achievement, we end up getting demoted or fired ... or hanging around with the likes of Charles Keating.

Like me, these days, you also are probably wondering, "Where did the time go?" Suddenly, we're almost always the oldest guy in the room, reminiscing about the good old days when there was no YouTube to record our every little f&*kin' temper tantrum for posterity.

At our age, we always have to pee in the middle of the night. And, if we're going to be up anyway, why not watch the Diamondbacks play until 1:30 in the morning? Never mind that in a few hours we have to be at something of great national significance, say, like the Senate testimony of fired FBI Director James Comey. Naturally, we end up doing something dumb, like calling the former FBI director "President Comey."

I've been there, brother. We can't stay up to all hours like we used to, can we?

Now that we've established our common ground, I want to speak to you old guy to old guy.

It's time to get health care right.

You know that your pal and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the human tortoise, has vowed to get the Senate's repeal of Obamacare done by July 4. To do that, the Republicans are holding closed-door meetings, shutting out Democrats ... and the rest of us.

Do you really think that's the best course of action?

If so, let me remind you what you said in 2009.

You stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tortoise in early December of that year and berated the Democrats for trying to get their health care package, which you would call Obamacare, passed before Christmas. You senators don't much like to work through the holidays, do you?

"There is a firestorm out there in America," you said. "That firestorm says, 'Stop this.' We want to know what's in this legislation ... we want to sit down and negotiate ... we want to do something that is bipartisan and good for America."

Don't remember? I understand. At our age, memory is the second thing to go. So here's the video if you need a refresher. (By the way, just for a laugh, run the tape at a higher speed. It makes the slooooooow-talking McConnell almost sound as if he is a real person.)

Now, never mind that back in 2009, when you spoke so eloquently about health care, the Democratic House had held more than 20 hearings on the bill, according to a Washington Post fact check of government records. The Senate bill had already undergone more than 500 amendments. Doesn't seem so secretive, in retrospect, does it?

I think we can all agree that the Affordable Care Act wasn't all that it could be. But it wasn't all bad, either. Obamacare allowed my 90-year-old mother to get free wellness visits with her doctor. It allowed countless young men and women to stay on their parents' health plans while they searched for jobs in a sluggish economy. It kept insurance companies from excluding people from coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

But now we hear horror stories about 23 million Americans losing their health care under the Republican House bill, as it currently stands. Even President Donald Trump has called that bill "mean. mean. mean."

Of course, he's called you even worse.

All I'm asking is that you not march in lockstep with the Senate's Republican leadership. Make sure it is the bipartisan bill that you demanded in 2009. Make sure it is a bill that benefits all Americans, not just Big Pharma and the insurance companies.

If it isn't, prove that you've still got enough clout to make sure that at least four Republicans hold out.

You promised your constituents in a recent Facebook Live town hall — don't believe what they say about old dogs — that you would read the entire bill before you voted on it.

How about making sure we get to read it, too?

Don't turtle on this, Senator. Stick your neck out this time. There's no need to worry about getting re-elected again in 2022. Hell, at our age, it's not safe to schedule a dental appointment more than three months in advance.

Our time, at least what's left of it, is now. Seize it to show people that this IS a country for old men ... to do the right thing.

Stuart Warner
Phoenix New Times

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Stuart Warner was the editor of New Times from 2017 to 2019. He has been a journalist since the stoned ages of 1969, playing a major role on teams that won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is also the author of the biography JOCK: A Coach's Story.