President Obama and the congressional Democrats have at least three options in their quest to pass health care legislation. Two of them don't seem very promising, but the third one might be.
One option is for the House to pass the Senate version of health care legislation. If the House were to do so, it would negate the impact of Scott Brown's election on the issue.
But the House was barely able to pass its own version of health care, though Speaker Pelosi may have had a few votes in reserve. Thus, the Senate's version, which differs in material respects (e.g., abortion and taxation of "cadillac" plans) would have been a tough sell under the best of circumstances. And with many Democratic Representatives no doubt spooked by today's election results, these aren't the best of circumstances.
A second option is to try to get the Senate to act on a new version before Brown is seated. But there doesn't appear to be enough time to accomplish this unless the Democrats contrive to prevent the timely seating of Brown. That tactic would probably consign even more Democrats to defeat in November. Moreover, certain Red and Purple State Democratic Senators will also have been spooked by today's result -- at least spooked enough not countenance the kind of abusive behavior described above. In fact, some of these characters may see Brown's election as an opportunity to attempt to save what little face they still may have.
The third option is to include a few Republicans in the process, e.g. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. This is what the Democrats should have done in the first place. The defection of Arlen Specter lulled them into the rash decision to push through this transformative legislation with no Republican support. That move has backfired.
Now the Dems have the opportunity to fix their mistake. It wouldn't even be that difficult. To my knowledge, you can't "buy" Snowe and Collins as you can some of the so-called moderate Democrats. But neither have they been "tough sells" when ti comes to cooperating with the liberal Dems.
For me right now, the five words I dread are "Obama to meet with Snowe."
Regardless, if Obama is making this race a referendum on his agenda, he just may have cemented his presidency as truly 'historic' as the man who achieved lame duck status the fastest. If the people of liberal Massachusetts -- which I believe is about 3:1 Democrat -- send Brown to the Senate, especially in a big win, Obama's agenda is shot. Other Dems will see the writing on the wall, and another round of 'retirements' in at-risk seats will commence. Those who sit tight will likely tack to the center, and will be a whole lot less likely to walk the plank on issues like DemCare and cap-n-tax.
Democratic leaders and the White House insisted ahead of the vote they aren’t preparing to desert health care. They admit they’ll have to come up with a new strategy to win passage, but said they didn’t want to allow one Senate race to take them off-course on the president’s top legislative item for the year.But several House members said Tuesday night that they had no interest in pursuing the most likely scenario for moving ahead with a bill — approving the already-passed Senate version of health reform in the House – and some said President Barack Obama should step back and start over.In fact, early signs of split emerged as the polls closed in Massachusetts – between leaders like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who said “the Senate bill is better than nothing,” and individual members who didn’t want to swallow the Senate’s version of health reform whole…“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,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)
Lieberman and Bayh all but warned Obama to back off earlier today. About an hour ago, just as news of Brown’s victory broke, Jim Webb chimed in: “[I]t would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”