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

Democrats consider backup plan for health care reform

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. JonDie

    Only one year after Bush and Cheney took the United States to the edge of a second Great Depression that could have left the country on the trash heap of history, much like the former Soviet Union, it seems that we Americans have learned nothing...because we're ready to go back to the Bush-Cheney years.

    January 17, 2010 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  2. TexasJack

    I hope the crooked politicians lose on every turn. We the people need to take charge come 2010. Get rid of the incumberents regardless of party. They are not functional.

    January 17, 2010 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  3. Doug

    The end is near.

    January 17, 2010 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  4. Obamalism

    Brown WILL win. The dems WILL attempt the reconciliation route and precede to watch their party implode from within. Not every moderate democrat is so willing to lose his/her seat for Nancy, Harry and Obama's pipe dream.

    January 17, 2010 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  5. db

    Yes, Obama has brought his magic touch to his "signature initiative."

    January 17, 2010 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  6. Jane wants the truth

    What happened to our democracy in which the bills are supposed to be approved by both houses ~ all of the representatives of Congress get their vote.

    Sneaky "Chicago Style" politics at work and the Americans are not liking it!

    Go Brown!!!!

    January 17, 2010 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  7. Jon Skillings

    Anyone who believes Mr. Robert Gibbs' words needs to be admitted to a mental hospital. Obama and his fellow socialists, Reid and Pelosi, are shaking in their shoes that dead Teddy is going to be replaced by a Republican.

    January 17, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  8. Mike in SA

    "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."

    So you mean this really isn't about what's good for the American people, but rather it's about politicians' legacies and egos? I'm shocked!!!
    (Please note more than a hint of sarcasm.)

    January 17, 2010 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  9. T'SAH from Virginia

    This entire article contradicts itself. Journalist today write everything they hear instead of doing their job and finding out the REAL TRUTH.... It's all about HEAR-SAY – nothing more!!!

    Come on now, STOP writing about everything WHISPERED to you and get to the bottom of the story!!!

    January 17, 2010 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    ""...there would be a huge outcry from not only Republicans, but also an increasingly distrustful public."

    What's going to cause a "huge outcry" is if the Dems, in the most egregious act of tyranny perpetrated by a political party since before the Civil War, impose their health care "reform" on an American public a majority of whom do not want it.

    It it the obligation of members of Congress to represent their constituents–and over half of those constituents, 55%, don't want what Congress is peddling. In the current political climate, however, most politicians seem to be perfectly willing to betray we mere citizens and serve as mindless rubber stamps, devoid of volition or integrity, for the views of the leaderships of their parties.

    January 17, 2010 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  11. Michael

    I am beginning to suspect that Democrats are hoping to loose the Massachuesettes Senate seat so that they won't have to pass healthcare reform and so that they can keep their jobs, so they think. My mama used to say that Democrats were really Republicans in sheep clothing who counted on the Republicans to shoot down programs for the poor so they wouldn't get the blame. I am beginning to believe her.

    There is no reason why we should be in this situation. None. Ted Kennedy was telling these idiots before he died to hurry up and pass healthcare reform and/or pick his successor and Democrats drug their feet. And why didn't Vickie Kennedy run knowing the draw her name would have brought to an election and an issue so important to her late husband and his legacy?

    Christopher Dodd and that other guy announcing their retirements, further putting the Democratic majority in jeopardy.

    Democrats shoot themselves in the foot everytime.

    January 17, 2010 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  12. Desmond in Canada

    Brains, Compassion and your own interest, Massachusetts!
    VOTE COAKLEY! Save pain for yourselves and millions of others!

    January 17, 2010 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  13. Reaganomics Leads To Feudalism

    I just hope that when the next Republican President wants to give tax cuts to multi-millionares, deregulate the financial markets, or get us involved in an unnessesary war based on fabricated "intelligence", that the Democrats will all stand united as the party of NO, and do everything they can to kill the next Republican President's neo-con agenda.

    Turnabout is fair play. What goes around comes around.

    January 17, 2010 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  14. The Lady

    Health care reform will happen so all you republican, conservative democrats and tea partier might as well get on board with what MAJORITY of the PEOPLE want. Health care reform is not about the republicans or democrats winning it is about what our country needs and wants.

    January 17, 2010 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  15. Tur-r-r-n Out the Lights....

    Is it over for Obamacare? Like Dandy Don used to warm up his vocal cords – "tur-r-r-n out the lights...the party's over..."

    January 17, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  16. Donkey Party

    Great news, Righties!! Looks like our frightened illiterate supporters are mobilized! Can't wait until we vote in President Palin and change the name of the USA to the USD (Uneducated States of Draconia).

    January 17, 2010 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  17. Tracy-Oakley

    Coakley took her win for granted and didn't run her campaign like she was the underdog & everyday counts. She'll squeak out a win, but Democrats need to be on notice...GET OUT AND VOTE!!!

    January 17, 2010 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  18. jules sand-perkins

    "Congressional Democrats spent much of the year working on it?"
    Well, we kept telling them that we did not want it.

    President Obama needs a bill to sign because he invested so much political capital into it?
    Tough, isn't it.
    The people kept telling the President that they did not want it, and he's trying to ram it down their throats "to build" our nation as he wants it to be–not as the founders built it.
    In addition, we all realize that the President will "look bad" in he can't sign something–any old bill. We don't care: it's his own fault.
    We kept telling him we did not want it.

    January 18, 2010 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  19. Donna

    It makes me wretch to think of the despicable GOP getting a chance to prevent people (like me) from getting healthcare.

    January 18, 2010 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  20. jules sand-perkins

    Ms. Coakley still may win this election.
    How many CORE workers are on hand to get out and to create her support?
    Any other Windy City tricks?

    January 18, 2010 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  21. John in Indy

    another socialist plan gets tossed on the midden heap of history. maybe, after all the crying is over, dems and repubs can JOINTLY write a simple reform bill and keep it to less than 100 pages...

    January 18, 2010 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  22. Kevin in Ohio

    Always scheming. The democrats have pulled out each and every stop through lying, cheating, and bribing. I'm sure they will have something up their sleeves should Scott Brown win. America.... wake up! Obama and Pelosi and Reid are taking us toward certain disaster if they are not stopped!

    January 18, 2010 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  23. rococo

    What part of NO do the Democrats not understand ?

    January 18, 2010 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  24. Becky

    Dear Massachusetts Democrats,

    We cannot allow this to happen....Please engage in your Civic Duty as Americans to vote against a Tea Bag Candidate who like the rest of the Regressive Party are resting on the Laurels of the 1940's which was brought to us by FDR and his progressive policies! President Obama has a plan and I have faith that it will be just what our country needs during this difficult time brought to us by George Bush and his Regressive lackies Like Brown. So please please please get out there and vote...for Progress....for the future and against the failed policies of the past!!!


    January 18, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  25. Mr Joshua

    The American people do not want this bill in it's current form. If the Dems pass it on the fly, Forget about November big time.

    January 18, 2010 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
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