Well, that's it. Obamacare repeal has failed. The House will not vote on the Republican health care bill.

So what's next? The first thing, of course, is for Trump to insist that he bears no blame for this. Possible candidates for being thrown under the bus include Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, Democrats, Obama, and illegal immigration.

But what's next after that? This is the depressing part. From a partisan perspective, I imagine the best bet is to sabotage Obamacare as much as possible and wait for it to fail. Then Trump can say that he was right all along (isn't he always?) and now we really have to do something.

But there's also the perspective of what's best for the country. If Obamacare repeal can't pass, the best bet is to work on making Obamacare better. This could be done fairly easily, since it's mostly tweaks that are needed. There are even deals to be made here. Democrats would probably be willing to give Republicans some things they want (tort reform, expanded HSAs, etc.) in return for modest changes that would make Obamacare more stable (higher penalties, tweaks to the subsidies, funding the risk corridors, etc.).

But that's a fantasy. There's little chance of anyone in Congress these days working across the aisle to do what's best for the country.

UPDATE: And the winner is...Democrats!

ZOMG! If Hopper is even closer than this, HOW CLOSE IS SHE???

So here's where we are. Apparently things are getting worse, not better, for the Republican health care bill. More and more members of the House are publicly saying they'll vote No, and it's threatening to turn into a bandwagon. Who wants to vote in favor of a terrible bill that's going down to defeat anyway?

Paul Ryan and the rest of the House leadership is considering pulling the bill rather than suffering through an embarrassing loss, and Ryan has told President Trump he doesn't have the votes to pass it. Trump still wants a vote, though, so he can take down the names of the No voters and swear eternal vengeance on them. He's already declared war on the Freedom Caucus.

Anyway, the vote is only about an hour away (3:30 pm Eastern), and it hasn't been officially postponed yet. Sean Spicer just told the press corps that it was still going forward. Paul Ryan may know when to beat a tactical retreat, but Trump is not really a tactical retreat kind of guy. Most likely, he's going to insist on a vote no matter what. And the bill will go down.

From the New York Times:

Republican senators moved Thursday to dismantle landmark internet privacy protections for consumers in the first decisive strike against telecommunications and technology regulations created during the Obama administration, and a harbinger of further deregulation.

The measure passed in a 50-to-48 vote largely along party lines. The House is expected to mirror the Senate’s action next week, followed by a signature from President Trump.

The move means Verizon, Comcast or AT&T can continue tracking and sharing people’s browsing and app activity without permission, and it alarmed consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers. They warned that broadband providers have the widest look into Americans’ online habits, and that without the rules, the companies would have more power to collect data on people and sell sensitive information.

This kind of thing genuinely puzzles me. It's not unexpected, but I still can't figure out why Republicans are so hellbent on doing this. There's nothing particularly conservative about allowing telecom companies to collect personal information without permission. Neither the general public nor the tea party base is clamoring to repeal this rule. And there's no special reason Republicans should favor telecoms in their endless fight against content providers (Google, Facebook, etc.).

But Republicans seem to prefer a privacy free-for-all. Is this just blind opposition to something Democrats like? Part of a general attitude that big corporations should be able to do anything they want? Or perhaps it's just a realistic appraisal of the fact that Americans seemingly don't care much about their personal information:

Personally, I favor very strong privacy protections. But even a more moderate view should understand that certain industries operate core infrastructure we all have to interact with: banks, credit card companies, doctors, phone companies, internet providers, and so forth. This puts them in a unique position to collect a lot of information.

But being in that position shouldn't mean they get to do anything they want with all this information. Quite the contrary. The fact that we have essentially no choice in dealing with these folks means that privacy regulations should be especially tight on them. They shouldn't be able to share their information with anyone else except under very specific conditions (for example, blinded scientific studies), and they should even be limited in what they can do with this information internally—especially since "internally" can mean a huge number of subsidiaries and sister corporations these days.

But for now, that's off the table. Big telecoms will be allowed to do anything they want and only a few privacy nuts seem to care. Still, you can put me down among the 8 percent who aren't thrilled about large corporations all having access to information about everything I buy. It's a lonely 8 percent, but at least there are still a few of us around.

Behold Parker Center, former home of the LA Police Department and star of many a Dragnet episode:

From the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library

You can see a more recent picture here. Parker Center was built in 1955 but has been empty for years. It's also, as you might expect, the focus of yet another tedious battle from preservationists who seemingly want to save any gigantic box ever built by a notable architect:

The building was designed by Welton Becket, the prolific architect behind the Capitol Records building, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the Cinerama Dome and the jet-age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.

Los Angeles city engineers contend that the mid-century building, which now sits empty, is seismically unsafe....The Los Angeles Conservancy disputes the city’s analysis and accuses officials of using inaccurate estimates to justify Parker Center’s demolition — something the city denies.

The battle over the building, which was named for former Police Chief William Parker, comes as city leaders push for a dramatic remake of the Civic Center, roughly 10 square blocks of government buildings surrounded by Little Tokyo, the Historic Core and Chinatown.

Who cares if it's seismically unsafe? If the city wants to build something more useful on the site, they should go ahead and do it. It's one thing to preserve houses and smallish buildings here and there, but multi-acre structures in the heart of a city should be preserved only if they're truly unique, historical treasures. The Parker Center, like the Ambassador Hotel, just doesn't qualify. It's a typical mid-century design, nicely executed, but nothing more. This kind of acreage can't be set in amber without a helluva good reason.

I wish preservationists would back off from this kind of stuff and put their energy into truly important fights. The center of a city is a living thing, and it needs to change to accommodate the needs of its residents. That's hard to do if giant swaths are declared off limits. Buildings that aren't truly iconic need to make room for the new when their time is up.

At the LA Times, David Lazarus writes about the latest in robocall scamology:

It’s the most cunning robocall scam I’ve encountered — and the fact that I’ve fallen for it more than once tells you how successful it can be. The phone rings. You pick it up and say “hello.” There’s a brief silence and then a woman’s voice says, “Oh, hi there!” She offers an embarrassed laugh. “I’m sorry, I was having a little trouble with my headset!”

....This is a new and highly sophisticated racket known as the “can you hear me” scam, which involves tricking people into saying yes and using that affirmation to sign people up for stuff they didn’t order.

Take my advice: never interact in any way with telemarketers, silicon or otherwise. Don't say "I'm not interested." Don't say anything. Just hang up. Period.

It looks like we have a final health care bill. As expected, it eliminates all of Obamacare's essential health benefits. Say hello to health care insurance that doesn't cover hospitalization! The repeal is set for 2018, so states that want to set up their own lists of essential benefits had better get cracking.

In a vain attempt to avoid headlines about how Republicans are being mean to women, the final version of the bill also adds $15 billion to the "stability" fund for maternity care and a few other things. It pays for all these changes by delaying the repeal of the Medicare surcharge on the rich. Oddly, though, this $15 billion appears to be only for the year 2020. Is this a typo? Or what?

Why is Paul Ryan having such a hard time selling his Obamacare repeal to the ultra-conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus? One chart tells the story:

According to DW-NOMINATE, when Ryan first entered Congress in 1999 he was the 18th most conservative member of the House. Almost no one was more conservative than Ryan. He was a member in good standing of the ultras.

But every year he got a little more moderate. By 2014, he ranked only 51st. The tea partiers who have been elected in the past decade look at Ryan as a guy who sold out. He's no longer even in the top 50, let alone the top 30 or 40 that it takes to be a solid ultra.

To you and me, 51st out of 435 seems pretty damn conservative. But to the folks who rank from 1st to 40th, Ryan looks like a guy who's steadily compromised with the swamp until he's become just another get-along-go-along guy. They don't trust him, and that's why he can't convince them to vote for his health care bill.

From Politico:

President Donald Trump is demanding a vote Friday in the House on the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said. If the bill fails, Trump is prepared to move on and leave Obamacare in place, Mulvaney said.

This makes sense on a whole bunch of levels:

As a threat against conservatives: Vote for the bill or else Obamacare stays around forever and it's your fault.

As a boredom minimizer: I doubt very much Trump himself cares one way or the other about health care, and he's probably tired of all boring technical talk that surrounds it (EHBs, continuous coverage, age bands, etc. etc.). He also instinctively understands that the whole thing is a shit show that's making him more and more unpopular.

As politics: The current debacle has shown that there's just no sweet spot acceptable to both moderate and conservative Republicans. Why keep beating yourself up over it?

As revenge against liberals: Trump has said that 2017 is the year Obamacare unravels. He will now do everything he can to make that come true, and there's a fair amount he can do.

As substance: It frees up time for taxes and trade, things Trump is more interested in.

Besides, I don't think Trump wants to stay in Washington over the weekend. The Mar-a-Lago golf course beckons. So let's just put this baby to bed one way or the other, OK?

Jonathan Chait has a question:

No, no, no, no, no! Remember when we thought it might be better if Donald Trump won the Republican primary because Hillary Clinton would be sure to beat him? Then James Comey came along.

Shit happens, people, and there's no predicting it. I doubt that the Republican bill can pass the Senate, but it might. The only thing we should care about is taking every possible opportunity to stop it, whenever and wherever we have a chance. Period.

(Besides, I doubt that voting for this bill will do much harm to Republicans when the midterms roll around. That's still 20 months away, and besides, at least the yes voters can say they did everything they could to repeal Obamacare but leadership screwed it up.)

And speaking of the Republican bill, apparently the whip count really is falling short. So now the vote has been postponed to Friday. Maybe. It all depends on whether Paul Ryan and Donald Trump can figure out something else to capitulate on in order to win the votes of the crackpots in the Freedom Caucus.

Oh, and one more thing: CBO has rescored the bill. The original version reduced the deficit by $337 billion. The new one reduces it by only $150 billion. But that's already out of date. They'll have to score it again after Ryan and Trump finish negotiating with the conservatives. But it's worth noting that Ryan doesn't have a lot of headroom left if he also needs to negotiate with moderates who want a slightly less brutal program. Another $150 billion and the bill won't reduce the deficit anymore. And if it doesn't reduce the deficit, it can't be passed under reconciliation.

But wait! One final thing: earlier I noted that the Republican bill is allowed to repeal only the elements of Obamacare that directly affect the budget. So if Republicans try to add provisions that repeal, say, essential benefits or pre-existing conditions, the Senate parliamentarian is likely to rule that they have to be jettisoned. However, as the presiding officer of the Senate, VP Mike Pence has the final word on this. He could just declare the parliamentarian wrong and allow the vote to go forward.

But what justification would he offer? As it happens, Republicans already have one handy. Last year, a number of them made the argument that the "direct effect" rule should be applied to the whole bill, not to its individual parts. In other words, Obamacare can be repealed completely because Obamacare as a whole directly affects the budget. If Republicans go down this road, that's what you're likely to hear.

However, my guess is that if Pence does this, he'll lose a whole bunch of votes from moderate senators who won't be a party to something that effectively kills the filibuster. So it probably can't pass the Senate either way.