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Obamacare remains the law of the land. And the White House didn't even get a courtesy call.
The West Wing was blindsided last night when two Republican senators — Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas — came out against repeal-and-replace. Either of them would have killed it.
But there's one more act in this drama. Don't leave the stadium, thinking it's over.
At 10:46 p.m., Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he was calling the bluff of his finicky GOP colleagues and planning a repeal-only vote, putting them on the line to act on the promise they had repeatedly made in their campaigns, with no excuses:
"Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful. So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay."
Axios' Jonathan Swan tells me this is "the nuclear option": "This is leadership saying: 'If you're not going to come around on a "replace" bill, [forget] you. We'll do repeal without replace — which you voted for before, when Obama was president, and you knew it wouldn't take effect. What was that, a fake vote?'"
"All the moderates are squeamish about the current bill. Full repeal is way worse. It's a horrendous situation for the moderates."
The outlook: It'll probably lose. But this is McConnell trying to get the issue fully off his plate so he can move on to tax reform, while showing the base he tried everything he could.
The takeaway: Top Republicans sources believe that the failure of health reform would make tax reform more likely — because of political desperation by Republicans, who'll need something to run on.
Be smart: We emailed one of the GOP's sharpest vote counters with the repeal-only news and the subject line: "Hail Mary?"
The quick reply: "Incomplete pass."
Politico: "At a dinner with GOP senators on Monday evening, Trump said the party would look like 'dopes' if they couldn't pass [a repeal-only] bill after passing a repeal bill in 2015."
The biggest, most consistent obstacle was that the complaints within the GOP caucus were diverse, and a big part of that caucus was not especially invested in reconciling them, Axios' Sam Baker writes.
And how 'bout Ted Cruz? "The man who once made it his business to outflank almost the entire Republican party from the right decided to make a play for pragmatism — and found himself outflanked from the right."
P.S. WashPost front page, "Treasury chief hurtles toward fiasco," by Damian Paletta: "Mnuchin is ... unable to get Congress, let alone his colleagues in the Trump administration, on board with a strategy to raise the federal limit on governmental borrowing."
"[B]oth campaigns battled for a group of voters who would ultimately decide the race. ... Trump's data analysts gave them a nickname: 'double haters.' These were people who disliked both candidates but traditionally showed up at the polls to vote. They were a sizable bloc: 3 to 5 percent of the 15 million voters across seventeen battleground states that Trump's staff believed were persuadable.
"Early on, many indicated support for third‐party candidate Gary Johnson. But after a series of televised flubs, ... they largely abandoned him. ... Many refused to answer pollsters' questions ... These were the voters Clinton had hoped to shear off from Trump with her 'alt-right' speech in August. ... Comey's letter had the effect of convincing the double haters to finally choose."
How the "double haters" voted: The national exit poll found 18% of voters had an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton. Those voters went 47% for Trump, 30% for Clinton.
Other nuggets from Josh Green's book:
Robert Redford (age 80) and Bob Woodward emerge last night from Avra Madison on 60th Street in New York City. Redford played Woodward in the 1976 movie, "All the President's Men."
Asked if they're planning a Watergate-themed movie or documentary, Woodward said, with his customary mystique: "Yes."
The film's release date is unknown. But we're told: "soonest."
WashPost lead editorial, "The worst crisis you've never heard of":
Diverging interests ... A "new layer of drama and suspicion in a White House already rife with internal rivalries," per AP's Julie Pace and Julie Bykowicz:
"Flynn Plans Defense Fund," by Bloomberg's Shannon Pettypiece: "Michael Flynn ... may become the first associate of President Donald Trump to begin raising money for legal costs associated with the Russia investigation, though others also are weighing how to finance their legal defenses."
Axios' Sara Fischer, author of our weekly Media Trends newsletter (out this morning), reports that media companies are in the crosshairs of three major tech policy fights taking place right now — net neutrality, privacy, and antitrust.
USA Today front page ... "High school grades have risen, but SAT scores don't follow," by Greg Toppo:
Trend watch ... "Retailers, brands see green for back-to-school shopping," by AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio: