The Buzz

The Back & Forth: Last week everything in politics sort of changed

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talks to the media during a news conference Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Topeka, Kan. President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated Brownback to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talks to the media during a news conference Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Topeka, Kan. President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated Brownback to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. AP

Buzz blog contributors who cover politics for The Star regularly chat about recent political news from Kansas, Missouri or our nation’s capital. This week, The Star’s Hunter Woodall chats with health care reporter, Andy Marso.

Hunter: Welcome back to the Buzz blog, where last week everything in politics sort of changed! But also sort of stayed the same.

Andy: Indeed.

Sam Brownback is leaving for a job in D.C. though. That's a change.

Hunter: And also leaves a big question.

The political folks I spoke with this week tried to weigh in on how much Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer may mimic or diverge from Brownback, but at this point it's unclear.

Andy: Yeah, there was a lot of speculation on Twitter like, "Hey, now maybe Kansas will expand Medicaid." But if anything Colyer has been even more dug in against expansion than Brownback, don't you think?

Hunter: That seems to be the case. Back in December, he tweeted that "Obamacare/Expansion will soon be dead." But as we've seen on the federal level, even a nicknamed "skinny repeal" isn't an easy sell.

Andy: True dat. The U.S. House's Obamacare repeal bill, the AHCA, would have explicitly barred states from expanding Medicaid. But it definitely doesn't look like that bill is getting through the Senate. So, as of right now, expansion advocates in Kansas will keep pushing. Who knows what will happen with Obamacare repeal/reform/repair from here though. Been a crazy couple months.

Hunter: Which is kind of what made this week unique. Brownback heading to D.C. and the repeal struggling in the Senate were both things that had been expected for months. But for both moves to come about in the way they did seemed a little unexpected.

I'm not sure anyone thought the White House's Brownback announcement, which seemed to surprise even Kansas Republicans, would arrive on a random Wednesday night. And I think you'd be hard pressed to find many people that expected John McCain to make such a decisive move on voting against the skinny repeal in that late night vote.

Andy: All true. And yet, ever since Donald Trump entered the presidential race I think the theme of national politics has been "Expect the Unexpected."

Hunter: That's a good point. But the president making a major staff announcement via a tweet storm late on a Friday seems less surprising now than it may have been a few months ago.

Andy: The Trump Administration does seem to have blindsided folks with Brownback announcement, but it sounds like Pence had been pushing for it for awhile.

As for McCain, he gave some preview of his discontent with the Senate health bill process in that dramatic speech right after he got back from brain surgery. National outlets reported that Trump tried to talk him into voting for the skinny repeal in a phone call, but I can understand why that wouldn't be persuasive given Trump's "I like people who weren't captured" line. Don't think he ever apologized to the senator for that, although he has since called him a hero.

Hunter: Andy, I get the sense this news cycle, and all of its ties to the Kansas political scene, won't be stopping anytime soon.

Andy: I agree. Usually, things slow down in the summer, especially in non-election years. This year, that does not seem the case.

Follow Hunter Woodall @HunterMw and Andy Marso @andymarso on Twitter.

Sen. John McCain returned to the Senate floor less than week after undergoing surgery to treat his brain cancer on July 25. McCain cast a critical vote in favor of health care legislation and also urged his colleagues to seek bipartisan solutions.

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