The health blogosphere is spinning out of focus today as its residents and commentators try to intuit what a Republican victory in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race could mean for Democrats’ efforts to overhaul the health care system.
Heritage’s Mike Brownfield thinks President Obama’s domestic agenda has led to dissatisfaction that’s being reflected in the election:
Those anti-big-government sentiments could put the kibosh on President Obama’s hallmark health care legislation if today’s special election for the late Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat doesn’t go the President’s way. Make no mistake, the Massachusetts election is very much about national issues – and President Obama’s liberal agenda. Health care came to dominate the Massachusetts race, and Republican candidate Scott Brown has made no bones about being the deciding vote to block Democrats’ health care reform legislation.
The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn points out that Republican Candidate Brown has taken a split position on health reform: “Scott Brown is running on a promise to block the health care bill in Washington. But, as you may have heard, he is not running on a promise to roll back the reforms that Massachusetts implemented three years ago. In fact, he says he supports those reforms. …It’s pretty clear why Brown isn’t opposing the Massachusetts reforms: They happen to be popular.”
Several commentators are analyzing ‘Plan Bs’ should Democrat Martha Coakley lose — and throw the Senate’s current 60-votes for health care into question.
The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait says one option for Democrats to pursue is renewing efforts to persuade Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe to vote for the Senate bill. Says Chait:
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.
Cato’s Michael Cannon disagrees, arguing that Snowe’s vote isn’t an option — unless Dems are will to make significant sacrifies:
If she were to vote for an individual mandate after declaring that such a law would violate the Constitution, Snowe could reasonably be accused of violating the oath she swore to the Constitution upon joining the Senate.
Yet Democrats are unlikely to support any bill that does not include an individual mandate. As President Obama told a joint session of Congress, his plan “only works” if lawmakers force everyone to purchase government-designed health insurance.
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey notes that even some Democrats are expressing doubt about a health bill’s chances should Brown win: ”Republicans have argued that a Scott Brown victory today would stop ObamaCare in its tracks. Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi insist that it won’t. On today’s “Morning Joe,” Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) agreed with Republicans, saying that he would have a “difficult time” voting for what he sees as an inferior Senate bill.”
Critical Condition’s James Capretta looks at options being discussed and says the idea of a “Plan B is absurd.” Capretta continues: “If Brown were to win, it would send shock waves through Democratic ranks unlike anything we have seen in recent years. Democratic infighting would intensify. Many more closed-door meetings would be held as members vented and fought over what to do. It would takes weeks, not days, for this process to play out. There would be no health-care bill before the president is forced to deliver a state of the union address.”
Comments like Capretta’s are the likely inspiration for Ezra Klein’s declaration: “The only thing Democrats need to fear is fear itself.” According to Klein, “The bottom line is that it’s health-care reform was a good idea last week, it’s a good idea next week. Brown doesn’t change the politics, the policy, or the feasibility of passing the bill.”