January 18th, 2010
10:20 AM ET
4 years ago

Democrats consider backup plan for health care reform

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Democratic officials on Capitol Hill are quietly talking about options for passing health care reform without that critical 60th Senate vote.
Democratic officials on Capitol Hill are quietly talking about options for passing health care reform without that critical 60th Senate vote.

Washington (CNN) – Faced with the once-unthinkable prospect of losing the Massachusetts Senate race, Democratic officials on Capitol Hill are quietly talking about options for passing health care reform without that critical 60th Senate vote.

Top White House aides insist they are not engaging in any talk of contingency plans, because they believe Democrat Martha Coakley will beat Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday's crucial Senate battle.

"We are not having any discussions like that," White House spokesman Bill Burton told CNN. "We believe she is going to win."

Asked about potential contingency plans as Air Force One returned to the Washington area after President Barack Obama's Sunday campaign rally for Coakley in Boston, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted to reporters the plan is to still pass health care reform with 60 votes. "We think Coakley will win this race," Gibbs said.

But Democratic sources on Capitol Hill say "what-if" discussions are taking place about how they could proceed with health care if Coakley is defeated, and they privately admit none of their alternatives is very good. According to senior Democratic congressional officials, here are options under discussion:

Pass health care reform before Scott Brown is seated.

But multiple Democratic sources say this is unlikely. Even if House and Senate Democrats could reach a deal to meld their bills and pass them in the next couple of weeks – a big if – there would be a huge outcry from not only Republicans, but also an increasingly distrustful public.

For that reason, one senior Democratic source says some Democratic lawmakers who voted yes last time have already warned they would vote no if health care is voted on in advance of any swearing in of Brown.

The House passes the Senate health care bill.

Democratic sources also call this extremely unlikely, because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likely wouldn't have the votes to pass it. Many House Democrats have major differences with several provisions in the Senate bill, especially the way the Senate structured a tax on high cost insurance plans.

Revisit the idea of trying to push health care through the Senate with only 51 votes - a simple majority. But to do that Democrats would have to use a process known as reconciliation, which presents technical and procedural issues that would delay the process for a long time, and Democrats are eager to put the health care debate behind them and move onto economic issues like job creation as soon as possible this election year.

Try once again to get moderate Maine Republican Olympia Snowe's vote for a compromise health reform plan, but multiple Democratic sources say they believe that is unlikely now.

Their health care overhaul dies.

Although some Democrats are not ruling out this possibility, numerous top Democrats say not passing a health care bill for the president to sign is unthinkable after he put so much political capital into passing a reform bill, and congressional Democrats spent much of last year working on it.


Filed under: Health care • Massachusetts • Popular Posts • Senate
soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. Kurt from Canada

    Americans must be the absolutely dumbest people on the planet.

    Scratch that. The Republican supporters are stupid and controlled through appeals to fear. The Democratic supporters are lazy and useless.

    Unbelievable. Truly unbelievable.

    January 18, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  2. yen

    Put not only one but several contingency plans in place. I am a what if person. And there is the possibilty she may lose. God forbid. In the meantime the DNC or whoever is in charge should be ready with all the foot volunteers availble to get the voters out.

    Dems wherever you are come out and help Obama. You cannot afford to lose in this.

    January 18, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Here's a plan - kill it and start over to get something the majority of Americans can support. Something without Cornhusker Kickbacks, $$$ for Louisiana, and tax breaks only available to union members.

    January 18, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  4. Disgusted

    Please Mass. residents, help us all to get rid of this horrible bill the Dems are shoving down our throats. The super majority has proven to be a control freak's dream. Let's start over, let the public see the Reps in action as promised by Obama during the election and NO BRIBES FOR VOTES as with Ben Nelson. That act alone should mean the end of this horrible bill. Please vote for Brown, not the weak Coakley, in this crucial election. Then, if the Dems find another way to circumvent the public's wishes, God help them all.

    January 18, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. ed

    It's interesting that Obama and the Congressional Democrats patterned their health care legislation after the Massachusetts government run health care plan and only 40% of the Massachusetts voters want it nationally. What does that tell you.

    January 18, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. Mike1952

    These lunatics will find some way to shove this down our throats against our will. You would think they would be smart enough to figure out that the majority don't want this debacle, even in Massachusetts. Maybe they don't care if they are defeated in 2010. Oh well, more room for conservative thinkers and maybe they can reverse the damage of this boondoggle before it takes hold.

    January 18, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. U.S. Common Sense

    Get the hint folks ... the bills that you call "reform" is unpopular, even by people within the Congressional majority. Why not trash it, start over, and focus only on targetted reforms without creating a government boondoggle (like the current bills will)?

    January 18, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. Fed Up

    You couldn't do it when you controlled both houses and the White House. Keep scrambling to shove health care down our throats. We can shove back in November. Make sure you get the public option in there! If this is such a great plan, why isn't everyone falling over themselves to vote for you guys? Doesn't make sense to me.

    January 18, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
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