What Will Coakley’s Defeat Mean for Health Care Reform?

This article is posted in partnership with the Media Consortium, of which RH Reality Check is a member organization.

Last night, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley
in the special election to fill Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat in
Massachusetts. Coakley’s loss puts health care reform in jeopardy.

With Coakley’s defeat, the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof
60-seat majority in the Senate. However, as Paul Waldman explains in The American Prospect, Coakley’s loss is not the end for health care reform.

Remember, the Senate already passed its health care reform bill in
December. Now, the House has to pass its version of the bill. The
original plan was for House and Senate leaders to blend the two bills
together in conference to create a final piece of legislation (AKA a
conference report) that both houses would vote on. Once the Democrats
are down to 59 votes, the Republicans can filibuster the conference
report and kill health care reform.

But if the House passes the same bill the Senate just passed,
there’s no need to reconcile the two bills. This so-called “ping pong”
approach may be the best way to salvage health care reform. Some of the
flaws in the Senate bill could still be fixed later through budget
reconciliation. It would be an uphill battle, but nothing compared to
starting health care reform from scratch.

The second option would be to get the bill done before Scott Brown
is sworn in. According to Waldman, there could be a vote within 10
days. The House and Senate have already drafted some compromise
legislation, which Waldman thinks is superior to the straight Senate
bill. If that language were sent to the Congressional Budget Office
immediately, the Senate could vote before Brown is sworn in.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a statement last night that Brown won’t be sworn in until the election results are certified,
a process that could take two weeks. Historically, the winners of
special Senate elections have taken over from their interim
predecessors within a couple of days. If the Republicans were in this
position, they’d use every procedural means at their disposal to drag
out the process. The question is whether the Democrats have the
fortitude to make the system work for them.

Remember how the Republicans did everything in their power to hold
up the Senate health care vote, including forcing the clerk to read the
767-page bill aloud?
They were trying to delay the vote until after the Massachusetts
special election. If it’s okay for the GOP to stall, the Democrats
should be allowed to drag their feet on swearing in Brown.

Also, remember how the Republicans fought to keep Al Franken from being seated after he defeated Norm Coleman?  For his part, Franken says he’s determined to pass health care reform one way or another, according to Rachel Slajda of Talking Points Memo.

Incongruously, some Democrats are arguing that rushing to a vote would be a violation of some vague democratic principle. Sen. Jim Webb
(D-VA) wasted no time in proclaiming that there should be no vote
before Brown was sworn in. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), of all people,
averred last night that the Democrats should respect the democratic
process and start acting like they have 59 votes while they still have 60.

All this talk of  “respecting the process” is hand waving disguised as civics. According to the process, Scott Brown isn’t the senator from Massachusetts yet. According to the process, you have the votes until you don’t.

Talk about moving the goalposts. It’s bad enough that we need 60
votes to pass a bill on any given day. Now, they’d have us believe that
we also need 60 votes next week. Webb and Frank are arguing that
Brown’s victory obliges Democrats to behave as if Brown were already
the Senator from Massachusetts. Of course, if Webb won’t play ball,
it’s a moot point. The whole fast-track strategy is predicated on 60
votes. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly thinks that Webb effectively took the fast-track option off the table with his strongly worded statement.

Katrina vanden Huevel of The Nation argues that this historic upset should be a wake up call to President Barack Obama to embrace populism with renewed fervor.
I would add that Obama was elected on a platform of hope and change.
There is no better way to fulfill a promise of change than to reshape
the nation’s health care system and provide insurance for millions of

Ping pong, anyone?

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  • truth

    This is not a game – this is real life Marxism taking place before our very eyes. But…"The People" are fighting back. When two historically very liberally democratic states (NJ & MA) vote in Republicans in a time when the most liberal of democrats is President – What do you think this means? It means that the people don’t want Socialism, which is exactly where this administration is stearing us. Here is an atricle that appeared in the Pravda (Russia’s New York Times). Wake up, people! You are like sheep being led to the slaughter, and you love it! http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/107459-0/

  • harry834

    When you say America is becoming socialist, what do you mean? Do you mean we are going to become a regime like Stalin’s? Can you explain the how’s…with some step-by-step illumination of this process?

    Feel free to take time writing on a Word doc, and get back when you have a well-crafted passage. Don’t feel you have to jump in and argue right away. 

    I’ll check back, and hope others will too.

  • harry834

    I say all this knowing I am responsible for doing my own research (ie homework), but if you can spell out some level of specifics, preferably in a step-by-step, that would help me to understand what you mean when you say "America is becoming socialist".

    You can start with what you have seen/read that has brought you to that belief.

  • paul-bradford

    Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), of all people, averred last night that the Democrats should respect the democratic process and start acting like they have 59 votes while they still have 60.


    It’s not just Barney Frank.  Democratic Secretary of State Bill Galvin has stated that he will certify Brown without delay.  That’s how things are in a democracy.


    Nobody is more disappointed in the result than I am.  My first, second and third priority for the election was Health Care Reform.  Trouble is, we haven’t made our case to the American people.  If Brown could beat Coakley in Massachusetts he could have beaten her in any state out of the fifty.  We’re not getting our message through to the public.


    Health Care Reform means more reproductive choice, more reproductive health, higher status for women and (here’s the great thing!) more protection for the unborn.  If we can’t sell Health Care Reform we’re doing something wrong. 


    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • julie-watkins

    On one had, we have lots of people who are rebelling about health insurance reform(*) even if it’s "for the public good". In a similar way, already born women are rebelling against being told to expend resources for ZBEFs "for the public good".

    What goes around comes around, eh? If women and poor people want any incrimental increase in their quality of life they (pragmatically**) have to tolerate systemic sexist and classist discrimination. And then we get calm, reasonable platitudes about how "it’s for the best", and we shouldn’t complain about society making us second-class citizens.


  • Footnotes:

    *I won’t call it "health care reform", because there’s debate on if the current bill will "help" health care (in the broad sense) more than it will help insurance profits (in the broad sense). As I wrote earlier (I think) since I’m covered I’m not going to advocate against something that might help a lot of people who need help. (I’m waiting for statements from ACORN or NAACP or similar on if it will do enough good to outweigh the unfair insurance profits.)

    **Of course, many will fight against the inequity. But the thing about those in power, they have a lot of money for lawsuits and think tanks and advertising so it’s going to be a hard, continuous fight.

  • harry834

    I think I will go through it with more detailed care, but this stood out:

    "Senator Barney Franks, a social pervert basking in his homosexuality
    (of course, amongst the modern, enlightened American societal norm, as
    well as that of the general West, homosexuality is not only not a
    looked down upon life choice, but is often praised as a virtue)"

    You’d probably guess I’d disagree with this view on homosexuality. We can both agree this statement doesn’t (necessarilly) affect the merits of the rest of that paper’s argument (which I will continue to read through), but I feel it is fair to ask, what does being attracted to the same gender have to do with making financial decisions that you say are un-capitalist? If you want to meet some gay people who agree with you on capitalism, check out Gay Patriot: http://www.gaypatriot.net/

    TRUST me, the folks on Gay Patriot hate liberals and Obama, and love your views of capitalism, as much as you do. I can give you the email of one gay guy who believes in the doctrine of employment at will, ie he is AGAINST anti-discrimination laws, even to protect gays. And HE is gay! Come on, there must be room for common ground between you two!

    Also, I noticed that the writer of that article (is it you?) wasn’t fond of the bailouts to banks. Neither are many liberals. This may also be a point of agreement. But then does "big government" deserve all the blame for that? Maybe (at least) part of the blame goes to the greedy bankers and Wall Street Guys who lobbied for the money. Do you think that maybe you are willing to put some blame on the private sector leaders? Please explain the extent and ways you would like to blame them. I feel many liberals would take your side on that. I’m still determining what my side is.