Sometime on Tuesday, Senate Republicans will vote whether to start debate on a plan to overhaul American health care, without knowing exactly what is in that plan or, by extension, how it will change the lives of millions of Americans.
There are few, if any, comparable examples of a bill with such wide-reaching consequences, being voted on so abruptly, with so many critical questions left unanswered less than 24 hours before it is taken up.
Senate leaders are bent on holding a vote. But after the plan was drafted in secret, it now needs substantial revisions under the Senate budget rules. And yet the White House and GOP leadership insist on forcing members to vote on Tuesday.
It is an unprecedentedly opaque process to try to pass legislation that overhauls an industry worth more than $3 trillion, which would undercut a law that has extended health coverage to more than 20 million middle-class and low-income Americans in the past seven years.
The fate of Obamacare, arguably the most significant domestic policy passed in a generation, hangs in the balance. Medicaid, a pillar of the American safety net since Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, could be fundamentally changed by the Senate bill, with federal spending capped permanently for a program that covers more than 70 million of the most vulnerable people in the country.
But as the vote approaches, there is no final text, no Congressional Budget Office score. Senate Republicans at least acknowledge the absurdity, if you ask them — this, coming from a party that spent seven years eviscerating Democrats for passing Obamacare in the quote-unquote dead of night.
Yet Johnson and 49 other Republican senators might very well vote to start the debate Tuesday afternoon, despite not knowing what bill their leaders want to pass or whether the Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan they've been crafting for the past two months would even function.
That's the bet McConnell is making: that the compulsion for Republicans to say they delivered on their promise to gut the 2010 health care law overrides any concerns about decorum. The entire argument in favor of opening debate has been reduced to: "Inaction is not an option."