While Republican senators mostly went through the motions with their anti-Obamacare talking points or outright endorsed Burwell as Kathleen Sebelius's replacement, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) used her time to trumpet the benefits of Medicaid expansion—and emphasize the downside of not expanding. […]Two Republicans, Sens. Johnny Isakson (GA) and Richard Burr (NC), didn't even ask her about Obamacare. Isakson must have thought he was in some other hearing, because he kept talking about a port project in Georgia that he wants to see approved, and Burr questioned Burwell on public health issues, and then used a good chunk of his time giving her a rousing endorsement, saying he supports her nomination because "[s]he doesn't come with a single experience that would make her a good secretary. She comes with a portfolio of experience." Maybe Senate Republicans were chastened by the total debacle of the House Republicans' hearing Wednesday, in which they just could not get insurance industry executives to say the words they wanted to hear: "Obamacare is a failure."
"Last year in North Carolina, our state legislature and governor decided against expanding the state's Medicaid program," Hagan said as she started her questioning, "and as a result, about 500,000 people who would have qualified for coverage through Medicaid are not now able to do so."
"These are some of the most vulnerable in our society," she said, "who will continue to seek care in emergency rooms and then will leave chronic conditions unmanaged, which we know is detrimental to their health and the economy." […]
In contrast to Hagan's aggressive pro-Obamacare performance, Republican senators were reserved. Almost none of the expected fire made an appearance. They hit the necessary talking points—canceled health plans, the Medicare payment board characterized as "death panel" by the far right and the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov—but rarely pressed Burwell on her responses.
Senate Republicans have another chance to create an Obamacare circus in the second hearing Burwell will endure, in the Finance Committee. That one hasn't been scheduled yet. But one really gets the sense that their heart just isn't in it anymore, particularly on the Senate side. Maybe one Republican circus at a time is enough for them.