A panicky White House and Democratic allies scrambled Sunday for a plan to salvage their hard-fought healthcare package in case a Republican wins the Senate race Tuesday in Massachusetts, which would enable the GOP to block further Senate action.
The most likely scenario would require persuading House Democrats to accept a bill the Senate passed last month, despite their objections to several parts.
Aides worked frantically Sunday amid fears that Republican Scott Brown will defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy's seat. A Brown win would give the GOP 41 Senate votes, enough to filibuster and block final passage of the House-Senate compromise on health care now being crafted.
None of them will work. Health care is dead if Scott Brown wins tomorrow. Trying to convince the House to accept the Senate's bill is a non starter. Bart Stupak was very clear in the language he wanted regarding abortion. The Senate has no such language.
Beyond that though, this vote is a clear rejection of this package. That's what Brown has been running on. The Democrats aren't that stupid. The leadership may in fact want to throw the party over a cliff to pass health care reform. There are some rank and file that would like to continue to have a job.
Trying to pass health care reform through reconciliation is nearly impossible. It's a legislative trick so complicated that most of Congress itself doesn't understand it. They may in fact get fifty votes in the Senate but that bill would never get the necessary votes in the House.
The simple fact is this. Scott Brown's election in the bluest of blue states is a monumental rejection of the Obama agenda. Chief on top of that agenda is health care reform. The leadership may in fact convince some of the rank and file that reality is really not reality, but they won't convince all.
There's talk that the Democrats will delay in seating Brown in order to have the current occupant, Paul Kirk, vote on health care reform. They can try but it will make them even less popular. In the meantime, it will only take one Democrat to switch. I firmly believe there is one Democrat in the Senate that likes their job more than they like this bill.