Monday, January 18, 2010

Will Health Care need a Plan B?

What seemed to be an impossible scenario just weeks ago, is now looking more possible everyday.

The special election is getting to close to call for late senator Ted Kennedy's senate seat in Massachusetts. The GOP candidate Scott Brown is giving The Democratic pick Martha Coakley a run for her money, so much so that President Obama has spent the last two days stumping for Coakley.

But does a GOP win kill health care?

Thinking back to all those days when the GOP thought they were going to beat Kennedy out of his seat, it turned out only a brain tumor could beat Ted. One of those last minute rallies will again be needed, to keep the seat in Democratic hands, while sealing the passage of a health care reform package. I believe the Dems will keep the senate seat in Mass. However, since the race has tightened the Obama Administration has had to think of plan B. Because a Health Care defeat is not an option.

John Chait of the New Republic, breaks down the options.

1. Finish up the House-Senate negotiations quickly and hold a vote before Scott Brown is seated. 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.

2. Get the House to pass the Senate bill, and maybe use a reconciliation bill (which only needs a Senate majority to pass) to implement as many House-Senate compromises as possible.

3. Go back to Olympia Snowe. I have not seen any persuasive reporting, or even conjecture, about what Snowe is actually thinking. Her substantive demands have been met. By the end of the process, her only demand was to delay the bill by some unspecified time period, which is such a vacuous demand that it's hard to believe it represents her actual beliefs. 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? If options 1 and 2 fail, we may find out about Snowe.

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