Scott Brown’s Win and Healthcare Reform
There was talk over the last few days, from Nancy Pelosi and others, that the Democrats might use parliamentary tricks and outright chicanery to ram a healthcare bill through even if Scott Brown won in Massachusetts and take the party coalition down to 59. Thankfully, cooler heads seem to have prevailed and that looks quite unlikely.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb made clear last night that he would not allow it.
In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.
Indiana’s Evan Bayh has gone even further, warning of “catastrophe” for his party and adding “if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up.” From what? Allowing its agenda to be set by its left fringe. “Whenever you have just the furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country — that’s not going to work too well.”
Other Democrats have joined in. Rep. Barney Frank has issued a statement saying, “our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened.” Former RNC Chair and current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said essentially the same thing in a Fox appearance this morning. Granting that neither of them have a vote in the Senate, they’re very powerful indicators of sentiment in the Democratic Party.
Playing ping-pong or pretending that this is more budgetary policy would be suicidal for the Democrats and most of them know it, even if the senior leadership hasn’t caught on.
My guess, then, is that it’s back to the drawing board.
There’s an imperative to get something done about both coverage and costs. The status quo isn’t sustainable, either economically or politically. But it’s also rather clear that the majority of the country wants something less radical than the bills that have passed the House and Senate.
So, as Rendell also noted in his Fox interview, the Republicans aren’t going to get a free pass on this, either. They’re going to actually have to participate in the process and propose alternative solutions that will address some of the very real problems in our healthcare system. President Obama has offered some useful suggestions along those lines, such as allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines. The GOP needs to seize on these rather than simply being obstructionist.