If Republicans have lost Moran, they’ve lost the healthcare battle
© Greg Nash

If there is one United States Senator who you count on to back the party line with a safe yes vote for anything Republican leadership wants, it certainly should be Kansas Senator Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLive coverage: Barr faces Senate panel as he prepares release of Mueller report Hillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — House panel approves bill restoring net neutrality | FTC asks for more help to police tech | Senate panel advances bill targeting illegal robocalls Senate panel advances bill penalizing illegal robocalls MORE.

Let's start with the most obvious. The last time Kansas elected a Democrat to the Senate was 1932. No other state can make that claim.

You need some more elements, though, to make this case for partisan obedience.

ADVERTISEMENT
Moran, upon entering the Senate, decided to make a pronounced statement by immediately joining the Senate Tea Party Caucus. The other original members: Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulBooker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Trump vetoes measure ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Bottom line MORE (R-Ky.), and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing MORE (R-Utah).

 

In 2014, Moran was the head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. You never appoint a party maverick or dissenter to that post.

Even with this background and history, Jerry Moran is not going along with his party leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal HR 1 brings successful local, state reforms to the federal level and deserves passage The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report MORE and backing their health insurance bill. (By the way, it's officially called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Democrats are affectionately calling it TrumpCare.)

Moran is even openly and publicly criticizing the process in which it was produced. A party regular and insider would never allow himself to do that.

Last week in far western rural Kansas in a town hall meeting he said this concerning the subject of health insurance: "It's worthy of a national debate that includes legislative hearings."

And then went on to say, "It needs to be less politics and more policy."

Those statements are a direct hit on how McConnell has chosen to do business.

Beyond that, it seems certain at this time Moran is in no way going to vote for what has now been proposed.

It's all a sign of how unpopular and potentially doomed this bill is if someone like Jerry Moran can't stomach it.

Who is this guy? Were there any previous signs that he would act in this way?

Moran was born in Great Bend, Kansas. That should say something right away. He did not become a city slicker — he grew up in what is commonly described as the "tiny town of Plainville."

An interesting sidelight is in 1974 he was a congressional intern and was able to witness first hand the impeachment hearing of Richard Nixon.

He was a banker, then went to law school at University of Kansas and practiced law in another small town, Hays.

Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, he demonstrated there some notable signs of political independence. He was one of 25 GOP House members that favored the proposal that the federal government negotiate for lower drug prices.

In addition supported efforts to expand the Children's Health insurance Program. These two proposals were signature Democratic party programs.

As a House member, he was not afraid to meet with his constituents. His district was very large, constituting 66 counties. He had scores of town hall meetings. As a U.S. Senator (elected in 2010) he continues to repeat this involvement with the people he represents.

The New York Times in a recent article tells of a town hall in Palco, Kansas where Moran met with and discussed his concerns about the GOP health care bill. Feeling their pain and showing sincere empathy he said, "I am a product of rural Kansas. I understand the value of a hospital in your community, of a physician in your town, of a pharmacy on Main Street."

These sentiments sure sound good. But at the end of the day will he actually not vote with his party and stay opposed to the final bill?

Today he says he is clearly opposed to what is now on the table. Will he stay firm and continue his opposition?

His spokesman Tom Brandt said Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg on Mueller report: 'Politically, I'm not sure it will change much' Sarah Sanders addresses false statements detailed in Mueller report: 'A slip of the tongue' Trump to visit Japan in May to meet with Abe, new emperor MORE has not called Moran and sought his support. Nor have they heard from anyone in the White House.

Only 17 percent of the country favor the present GOP bill, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Is Senator Jerry Moran going to join the overwhelming majority and just say no?

In my last column I predicted every GOP Senator who was opposed to the bill would buckle and go along.

Now, I'm not so sure.

Maybe I was very wrong.

The GOP bill is so hideous and bad it will have to be radically changed or just be voted down.

Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner. Previously, he was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington's NPR affiliate, where he co-hosted the "D.C. Politics Hour With Mark Plotkin." He later became the political analyst for WTOP-FM, Washington's all-news radio station, where he hosted "The Politics Hour With Mark Plotkin." He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.