Just a few days ago, it looked like the biggest obstacle to clear the health care reform bill would be getting the House and Senate to come to an agreement on the terms within the bill. Oh how a single Senate seat can change that around. On Tuesday, in a surprise victory, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley to gain the open seat in the Senate, in the mostly Democratic state of Massachusetts. The open seat, once belonging to the late Senator Edward Kennedy, was crucial in determining the balance of power in the Senate. The irony in all this is that Edward Kennedy dedicated over 4 decades of his Senate career in fighting for health care changes in our country. And in the seat that he once held, all that came crashing down this past week.
Massachusetts already has a program in place that provides health insurance coverage to their residents. Brown feels that his constituents shouldn’t have to pay for a national health care plan, especially a plan that is being written behind closed doors and has a number of shady backroom deals.
Even though the balance is now 59-41 (eliminating the filibuster proof majority), some Democrats still aren’t getting the picture. Republican leaders are frustrated that Democrats are still trying to keep them out of the process. Even post-election, Democrats were in closed-door meetings, negotiating amongst themselves.
But their options are limited. Can they rush the bill through before Senator Elect Brown takes office? We doubt it. Many House Democrats are not fully satisfied with the current Senate version. Besides, will there be more political backlash if they push forward on a bill that continues to lose public support.
There has been some talk that Democrats are now considering breaking the bill into different parts to ensure at least some of it will pass. This may be their only option to be able to claim a “victory”. For most of us, we thought we had clarity on what the future might have held regardless of our likes or dislikes. After almost a year of hard work and a tremendous effort by many – we may be starting all over again. However, we suspect that this time the will of the American people may be better represented.