Democrats are scrambling to figure out a way to pass health-care reform if, as is now expected, a Republican victory in Tuesday's Massachusetts special election for the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat deprives them of their filibuster-proof majority. One strategy under consideration is to have the House pass the Senate bill, but House liberals may balk because they say that version contains too many compromises meant to win over conservative Democrats. Is health-care reform dead, or will Democrats be able to save it? (Watch a report about the Massachusetts election's impact on Obama's agenda)
Democrats have few options, but they won't quit: If Republican Scott Brown beats Democrat Martha Coakley in the race for the Kennedy seat, says Brian Beutler in Talking Points Memo, there's virtually no way Democrats could win over a moderate Republican, such as Sen. Olympia Snowe, to avoid a filibuster on a bill with the changes House Democrats want. House liberals won't want the Massachusetts vote to be the "death knell" for reform, so they may decide that passing the Senate bill is their "most appealing option."
"Plan B: Democrats consider how to pass health care if Coakley loses"
Forcing through the health bill would be political suicide: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists Democrats will pass the health-care bill one way or another, says William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. But there's no way that, if Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts, Pelosi "will be able to persuade 217 other House Democrats to jam Obamacare down the throats of the American people." And President Obama wants to have a "successful presidency"—so he probably won't encourage Pelosi to "go down so politically suicidal a path."
Democrats can't win now: "Even if Coakley wins—and my guess is she'll lose by a double digit margin—the bill is dead," says Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic. "The most Obama can hope for is a minimalist alternative that simply mandates that insurance companies accept people with pre-existing conditions and are barred from ejecting patients when they feel like it. That's all he can get now—and even that will be a stretch."
"A looming landslide for Brown"
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