The Republican takeover of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat has cast a pall over Democrats' signature piece of legislation. The loss of a crucial
Democratic vote critically endangers health care reform's passage, still tantalizingly close to completion. Some Democrats have even toyed with the idea of killing reform. Now, the New York Times reports
that Democratic leadership in Congress is putting the brakes on health
care. Is this the end? Or can Democrats still pull it off?
Health Care Is Dead
- Looks Like Surrender The New York Times's Herszenhorn and Pear evaluate the scene. "Some Democrats said they did not expect any action on health care legislation until late February at the earliest. But
the Democrats stand to lose momentum, and every day closer to the
November election could reduce their chances of passing a far-reaching
bill. The gear shifting by Democrats underscored how the health
care effort had been derailed by the Republican victory in the
Massachusetts special election."
- Senate Dems Bailing Ship Hotline's Reid Wilson profiles Senate Democrat Blanche Lincoln's faltering support. "Lincoln faces a tough re-election bid, thanks in some part to her support for health care legislation." She is faring poorly in polls against possible electoral opponents, which could motivate her quickly eroding support for passing health care reform. Lincoln, of course, is not alone, but even if she were, her one lost vote could be enough to sink it.
- Political Infighting Making Reform Toxic Reason's Peter Suderman explains that Americans now associate reform with months of partisan bickering, poisoning the bill's popularity. "Voters, and independents in particular, are famous for disliking messy political conflict, so bipartisan support might win over significant public support. That's one of the reasons that opposition to the bill is so high now, and has grown so sharply over the course of the year."
Health Care Is Not Dead
- Not If Senate Dems Toughen Up The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen explains. "The road ahead is far from encouraging, but all hope is not lost." House Democrats are ready to move forward, but Senate Democrats are too frozen with electoral terror to follow suit. For the House to progress, the Senate must signal what changes it's willing to accept in the bill. If Senate Dems ever articulate their requirements, the House can pass them and get the bill out the door. Benen predicts this has a "20% chance" of happening.
- Reconciliation a Viable Option So says the Washington Post's Ezra Klein. The
controversial parliamentary procedure, which requires only 51 Senate
votes rather than 60, can only apply to budget-related measures. The
upside: "you can lose a couple of conservative Democrats. In theory, this could
be a good thing: 51 senators could enact a better bill than 60 senators." The downside: It's politically risky.
- The Statistical Odds Nate Silver forecasts passage as possible but "challenging". He builds a complex model encompassing everything from electoral outlook to voting records to abortion views. He finds that the two biggest obstacles are panic over the 2010 elections and the risk of a mass defection from progressives. "Although Democrats can expect at least 7 defections among people who voted for the bill originally and possibly as many as 15-20, there are at least a dozen and possibly as many as 15-18 Democrats who could at least potentially be whipped in favor of the bill, although only a handful of these will be easy acquisitions." Democrats can only lose two net votes.