Brown’s Victory in Massachusetts a Game Changer for Reform
On Tuesday, Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown (R) received 51.9% of the vote to win a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D), the Boston Globe reports.
Brown defeated state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who drew 47.1% of the vote, according to the Globe. Coakley, in a call to Brown, conceded the race a little more than an hour after polls had closed (Viser/Estes, Boston Globe, 1/20).
Brown's win now makes him the 41st Republican member of the Senate and ends the 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority that Democrats had expected to use to pass reconciled health care reform legislation through the chamber, according to the AP/Cincinnati Enquirer (Johnson/Sidoti, AP/Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/20).
In a speech Tuesday night, Brown -- who campaigned against health care reform legislation currently being debated in Congress -- said, "People do not want the trillion dollar health care plan that is being forced on the American people, and this bill is not being debated openly and fairly," adding, "It will raise taxes, it will hurt Medicare, it will destroy jobs and run our nation deeper into debt" (Budoff Brown/O'Connor, Politico, 1/19).
Health Reform a Driving Force for Brown Victory, Exit Poll Finds
Brown's campaign message against the Democrats' health care reform efforts played a key role among Massachusetts residents who voted for him and led to his victory on Tuesday, according to the results of an exit poll conducted by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, Politico reports.
No news organizations conducted exit polls of the race (Catanese, Politico, 1/20).
Democrats Consider Options
Senate Democrats planned to convene a meeting today to discuss possible strategies on completing health reform legislation in light of losing the special election, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, bypassing the Senate remains one of the options that some Democrats and party strategists favor as a way to ensure quick and prompt delivery of a bill to Obama for his signature (Hulse/Herszenhorn, New York Times, 1/20).
On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that "the Senate bill clearly is better than nothing," indicating that the House could be willing to consider that approach (Sherman, Politico, 1/19).
Some lobbyists have said that the House could pass the Senate bill unchanged and then send the Senate a second piece of legislation incorporating a number of alterations regarding revenue and spending. The second bill could be passed using the budget reconciliation procedure, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate, according to the lobbyists (Epstein, CQ Today, 1/19).
However, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said, "If it comes down to that Senate bill or nothing, I think we are going to end with nothing because I don't hear a lot of support on our side for that bill," even with a promise to fix it later. "You wouldn't buy a car for a trillion dollars and say, 'Yeah, it doesn't run but we will fix it later,'" he said (Budoff Brown, "Live Pulse," Politico, 1/19).
Another option Democrats might consider would be to expedite the approval of a revised reform bill through the Senate while Brown's victory is being certified and before he takes the oath of office, Politico reports. The certification and official seating of Brown could take up to two weeks.
However, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), a moderate who supports health reform, said on Tuesday that Brown's victory was a "referendum" on health reform, adding, "To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated" (Politico, 1/19).
A third option would require Democrats to abandon the current legislation and start over in the Senate with a "drastically scaled-back" reconciliation bill, according to the Washington Post.
If invoked, the budget reconciliation procedure would require just 51 votes in the Senate for the bill to pass to the House. However, lawmakers are unsure whether the chamber could legally begin that process, the Post reports (Murray/Montgomery, Washington Post, 1/20).On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "Whatever happens in Massachusetts, we will have quality, affordable health care for all Americans and it will be soon" (Bendery, Roll Call, 1/19). Pelosi said that no matter the results of the special-election, negotiations to combine the House and Senate health reform bills would continue. "[W]e still have to resolve the difference between our two bills," she said, adding, "We still have to communicate to our members about the direction they want us to go with certain particular issues" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/19). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.