KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Democrats Plot Possible Health Bill Strategies If Mass. Seat Goes To GOP

The New York Times reports that as Democratic leaders campaign for their party's candidate to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts, they are beginning to think about strategies if the Republican candidate wins and "deprives Senate Democrats of the crucial 60th vote they need to overcome filibusters" on the health overhaul bill. 

"For the moment, at least, the preferred Plan B would be to try to persuade House Democrats to approve the health care bill that the Senate adopted on Christmas Eve … [but] House Democrats have expressed complaints about the Senate legislation. …"

"Over all, however, the bills are similar, if not identical, on a vast majority of issues. For supporters of the health care overhaul, the complaints with the Senate bill may seem minor compared with the prospect of outright defeat of the legislation, the president's top domestic initiative, and the thought of Republicans' using a health care failure to clobber Democrats in this fall's midterm elections."

Some overhaul supporters have suggested that if the House passes the Senate bill, Democrats could "push through a raft of changes during the upcoming federal budget process" (Herszenhorn, 1/17)

CNN reports that some strategists are suggesting if Democrats lose Kennedy's old seat, they should try to get Maine Republican Olympia Snowe to vote for the revised health care bill. "They could try for a compromise health reform plan with the independent-minded Republican, but multiple Democratic sources say they believe that is unlikely now" (Bash and Henry, 1/17)

Politico reports: "A victory by Republican Scott Brown Tuesday in Massachusetts could quickly turn into a legal battle over the man he would replace – Sen. Paul Kirk – with the future of health reform in the Senate hanging in the balance. Conservative commentator Fred Barnes is arguing that [Kennedy's interim replacement Sen. Paul] Kirk will lose his vote in the Senate after Tuesday's special election, no matter who wins, signaling a possible GOP line of attack against health reform if it passes with Kirk's vote. …"

Politico also notes that health care "insiders see an even bigger problem should Brown win on Tuesday -- nervous Senate Democratic moderates reconsidering their support for the bill. 'This has now turned into a referendum on health care in the bluest state. If Brown wins, technical 60 vote aside, there are a lot of [moderate Democrats] who are going to flip and this thing will be in trouble, not dead, but delayed and possibly scaled back,' said a Democratic health care industry insider, adding that a Republican win will make it that much harder for Democratic congressional leaders to sell a final deal to their members" (Frates and Raju, 1/17)

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