Bill Cassidy, Rick Santorum

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., second from right, accompanied by Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, right, testifies during a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal, on Capitol Hill, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ORG XMIT: DCAH140

Andrew Harnik

Politicians can hardly be blamed for glossing over their failures, or even characterizing them as partial successes; they are not in a game that rewards brutal honesty.

We can mostly cock a deaf ear, because life is too short to count the lies coming out of Washington.

But sometimes an official announcement does such violence to plain truth that the senses of the most jaded hack must rebel.

So it is now that U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy et al have come up short in their attempt to kill Obamacare. Their spectacular failure in a cause central to the Republican agenda for years has not left them crestfallen, far less apologetic. They greeted the defeat of their legislation with a statement that is positively triumphalist. “As a result of our efforts in the last few weeks,” the senators preened, “it's only a question of when” their plan will put Obamacare out of its misery.

Since they couldn't do it when a simple majority was all they needed for passage, and the window of opportunity has now closed for that dodge, the upbeat tone is not easy to justify.

But hailing defeat as a harbinger of victory is easy if you are as much at home in fantasy land as our four senators. “Our approach ends the march toward a single-payer health care where all medical decisions are made by a Washington bureaucrat,” they say.

Supposing there is such a march — and single-payer is hardly a popular cause in this country — it would be a slur on our four senators to believe they are idiotic enough to believe what they write. Whatever the shortcomings of government-sponsored health care, the role of bureaucrats is limited to budget and administration, as it is under any system. “All medical decisions” are made by doctors everywhere. Indeed, how could it be practical for laymen in faraway offices to diagnose and prescribe treatment for every patient in the land?

Back when Sarah Palin was shrieking about “death panels,” it seemed that Obamacare had spawned the ultimate alarmist drivel. Our senators have outdone her.

As to why their legislation failed, the senators claim that “the arcane rules of the reconciliation process limited our policy options and imposed an artificial deadline on our efforts.” Reconciliation is a procedure that allows for expedited passage of budgetary legislation once a year.

The clear implications of the senators' statements it that their task will be easier now that reconciliation no longer applies. Well, if you can believe in the Washington bureaucrat who makes medical decisions in Ville Platte, you can believe anything.

The “artificial deadline” that allegedly hampered them in fact provided them with a soft option. If they could get their act together by Sept. 30, they didn't need to enlist a single Democrat. All they had to do was round up 50 senators and call a prompt vote. Now that time has expired, they will need 60 votes, meaning a bunch must come from across the aisle, and the right to filibuster has been restored.

Whether they will have an opportunity to pass a bill by simple majority is hard to say. The rules of reconciliation, which provides an express lane for budgetary legislation once a year, are indeed arcane. They are so arcane that a hitherto unknown official has swum into our ken. The task of interpreting the reconciliation rules falls to the Senate “parliamentarian,” one Elizabeth MacDonough. She it was who advised that the Cassidy bill had to pass by Sept. 30 and who may decide whether an Obamacare repeal bill can be introduced under reconciliation next year, which would presumably be its only chance. All we can say for sure is that there are no apparent grounds for the optimism our senators claim.

They aver, in the middle of announcing the abandonment of their health care plan for want of support, that it “clearly resounded with our colleagues.” That was a pretty cracked sound. Can't these guys hear us laughing at their pompous pronouncements?

No doubt they are correct to suggest Obamacare is not the ultimate answer to America's health-insurance needs. But their plan isn't either, and their cock-eyed statement cannot disguise the fact.

Email James Gill at gill1407@bellsouth.net.