Massachusetts goes to the polls today to elect a new senator to fill
Ted Kennedy's seat. Though Democrat Martha Coakley once looked like a sure thing, she is now tied or trailing in polls against Republican Scott Brown. Her loss appears to be a real possibility, and as we've previously discussed, Coakley's defeat could potentially sink health care reform.
After nearly a year of bitter and difficult negotiations, the loss of
even one Democratic vote in the Senate could be enough to kill the
entire measure. But Democrats aren't willing to concede so easily. Here are the liberal brainstormers who've come up with health care options if Coakley loses.
- Pass Health Care Before Brown is Seated The New Republic's Jonathan Chait suggests that Democrats get it done ASAP, while they still have the votes. "Finish up the House-Senate negotiations quickly and hold a vote before Scott Brown is seated," he writes. "Republicans will scream, but how could they scream any louder? It's a process argument of murky merits that will be long forgotten by November."
- Just Pass Senate Version The New York Times's David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear explain that if the House can see its way to passing the Senate's bill without changing a thing, that would free the Senate from having to vote again and would make Scott Brown's opposition irrelevant. The challenge, however, is that many House Democrats oppose elements of the Senate version. They range from conservative Democrats, like Bart Stupak, who see it as too soft on abortion, to liberal Democrats who want broader coverage. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn likes this option.
- Pass Changes Through Reconciliation The Washington Post's Ezra Klein recommends the above idea with a twist. The House should pass the Senate version as-is to avoid involving the Senate. Then, any changes that House Democrats want could be passed separately through a process known as reconciliation. The parliamentary measure allows the Senate to pass budgetary matters budget with only 51 votes rather than the 60 usually required. However, that means all changes must be related to the budget and that House Democrats simply have to trust that Senate Democrats will play along.
- Talk To Olympia Snowe The New Republic's Jonathan Chait wonders if Snowe, the moderate Republican Senator who once voted for reform and then voted against it, could be convinced to vote yes again, providing the crucial 60th vote. "I have not seen any persuasive reporting, or even conjecture, about what Snowe is actually thinking. Her substantive demands have been met," Chait writes. "Did she turn against the bill completely? Did she decide that she couldn't take the heat for voting yes? Or did she figure that, with sixty Democrats, her voted wouldn't really be needed so there was no reason for her to take the heat?"
- Let's Just All Freak Out The usually ultra-rational Matthew Yglesias gets cynical on Twitter. He asks the more optimistic Ezra Klein, "You don't think the fact that it will now be impossible to pass any legislation or confirm any nominees is a big deal? [...] With Coakley, bank tax and other financial reg matters have a shot. With Brown they don't. [...] Brown win will be pretext for centrist Dems to kill everything they probably would've killed anyway."