After years of being missing and presumably dead, the ole maverick McCain poked his head out today to give his fellow Republicans a big middle finger. A vote to kill Obama-era environmental regulations failed to pass the Senate because of McCain, and many believe he did it because his senator colleagues aren’t condemning Trump’s bizarre decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Unless a vote is simply intended to be symbolic, the Senate doesn’t usually hold a vote without knowing what the outcome will be. So, when lawmakers assembled today to decide on repealing a regulation that restricts methane emissions when drilling on public lands, everyone thought it would be easily approved. But McCain had other plans. His vote of no caused the repeal to fail with a final tally of 49-51.
Among Republicans, McCain falls somewhere in the middle on environmental issues. He pretty much follows his party, and when a piece of legislation is particularly controversial he’s known to skip out of voting altogether. What could have prompted him to join every Democrat and two other Republicans in opposing the measure? It appears he’s angry that the GOP isn’t following his lead and demanding an independent investigation into the Trump campaign ties to Russian interference with the U.S. election.
Just before the vote, McCain was on CNN explaining that he doesn’t buy the White House explanation that Comey had to go because he was mean to Hillary Clinton. Many believe that Trump’s decision had more to do with the FBI directors continuing probes in the Russia scandal and plenty of reporting supports that thesis. “I don’t believe that that is sufficient rationale for removing the director of the FBI, and I regret that it’s happened,” McCain told CNN. “We have a lot of issues and challenges and this just diverts a lot of that attention.”
McCain is one of only five Republicans to call for an independent investigation of the Russia issue, so far. The majority of the rest have either expressed support for Trump’s decision or given no statement at all. But still, those comments don’t necessarily mean he voted the way he did today just to stick it to his cowardly colleagues. Check out this C-Span video of him voting, though:
McCain is speaking to a group of Senators that includes the Republicans, John Cornyn and John Barrasso. They all like destroying the environment and they’re all named John, so they should really be having a great time together. But, McCain seems agitated. He gradually becomes more animated and wildly swings his arms around. He seems to give up on whatever they’re talking about, walks to the Senate clerk, gives an emphatic thumbs down, and proceeds to bolt out of the chamber.
This is great news. The Senate has been using the Congressional Review Act in a complex fashion to overturn Obama-era regulations without needing the standard 60 votes pass something. Only 50 votes would have been required to repeal this particular regulation, but the Senate’s window to use that sneaky tool closes on Thursday. Congress had only used the rule once before Trump came along. Since then, it has been used 13 times.
Two Democrats were also believed to be considering a vote in favor of the repeal. They ultimately decided to vote no.
Trump’s decision to fire Comey could have consequences down the line if any wrongdoing is found. For now, we’re all winning as the Republicans fracture and Democrats harden their resolve. And I’ll never get tired of winning.