Thursday night’s thrilling drama left McConnell at a rare loss for words. Democrats celebrated sticking together to preserve Obama’s key legislation and protecting 23 million Americans from losing health insurance. Unfortunately, the celebration might not last as long as we hoped. The “Skinny Repeal” bill had only three Republicans stand between the bill and passage. If any of their votes change, then McConnell could bring the bill back for a successful vote. All three Senators seem steadfast in their vote, so what would change the vote tally? Enter John McCain’s health problems. If John McCain, recently diagnosed with cancer, retires from the Senate or is unable to serve, the Arizona governor appoints his replacement.
Arizona’s constitution requires that in the case of a Senate vacancy, the governor appoints the new Senator. That new appointee serves until the next regularly scheduled state election in November of 2018.
Arizona’s Governor, Doug Ducey, is a lifelong Republican and an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act. If McCain retires, he alone would have the power to appoint the 50th vote McConnell needs to rip health care away from up to 22 million Americans. In 2015, Ducey called Arizona “ground zero” for “damage” caused by the Affordable Care Act, and called for its repeal. That same year, he also approved a measure that would give Arizona “sovereign authority” over its policies. In other words, the bill allowed the state to not follow national government regulations. Ducey told reporters he approved the measure because he is “no fan” of the Affordable Care Act. Ducey has also not shied away from kicking people off insurance. Last year, he tightened Arizona’s Medicaid requirements, booting over 500,000 Arizonans off their health care plans.
Ducey also does not have to be worried about his election chances. Although he is up for reelection in 2018, he does not have to be that worried about the results. Arizona has not had a Democratic governor in 26 years. In 2014, Ducey easily defeated the Democrat, Fred Duval, by over 12 percent. This means he could make his decision independent of the damage it might do to his own constituency, and the tens of millions of people that rely on affordable health care.