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. Anne

    Let the bill die already.

    January 18, 2010 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  2. Steve

    The Democratics know the plan is horrible and the vast majority of the Legal Citizens of the USA do not want socialized medicine. Kill the Healthcare Bill now.

    January 18, 2010 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  3. Mike O

    If Brown wins, or the Dems even need a 'cemetary vote' to beat him, and the Congressional Dems ignore that message from the voters by ramming health care through, they indeed will make it like that BOTH houses roll over this year. Can they get the votes from politicians who are interested in saving their own political skins?

    January 18, 2010 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  4. buckwheat

    I hope Obama goes and makes a speech.

    January 18, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  5. proud conservative

    here's one: how about actually listening to the majority of people who do not want this and instead deal with the economy first and foremost? Oh no, that's not part of their plans!

    January 18, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  6. dg

    the liberals dont get it. WE DONT WANT THIER CRAP

    January 18, 2010 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  7. Waste of Time

    Gibbs has got to have tough time sleeping at night knowing the crap he continues to tell the American public. To every Dem and Lib, if your policies are so great, health care so wonderful...why then all the back room dealing, the push to get it done now (though no real benefits until 20130), and the lack of public support.

    January 18, 2010 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  8. Independant Vet

    Cibbs , better engage in speaking when spoken to. For lets watch the turn of the page , Demorats can not buy there way out of there created mess .
    Obama nomic's has come to be a total failure, Bankrupting the Nation , Fly , Spend , an lie . on top of lie. an more lies.

    January 18, 2010 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. D. Tree

    This important legislation needs to be passed so we can move on to the other important issues facing our country – I'm sick and tired of Republicans confusing the public and obstructing progress! People who oppose this bill are not paying attention, if we don't pass it our country will go bankrupt with out-of-control insurance costs. Stop wasting our time and tax dollars opposing something you don"t understand!

    January 18, 2010 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  10. perryrants

    it would have been a better strategy to have "fixed" health care by:
    1. improving care to the elderly so that they don't have to spend $5000 a month for care, lose their homes and all they posses. 2. provide catastrophic coverage (having the flu does not mean going to the hospital!) and 3. preventative services rather than "insuring" everyone.

    these would have been easier to tackle rather than pursuing an idea, ideal of massive cost care. I spend $3000 per year and see my doctor once a year. I'd rather pay him for the single visit and save money.

    January 18, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  11. GI Joe

    You want your premiums increased 20% per year and then be kicked out when you have a poblem? The vote for Brown.

    You want to be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions? Then vote for Brown.

    January 18, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  12. Jimmy James

    I am shocked. Louisiana got 300 million for 1 vote, Nebraska gets free medicaid for 1 vote, and Florida gets no medicare cuts for 1 vote. What's my 1 vote worth in Mass? I want to be bribed and Obama didn't offer us anything. Looks like the Democrats are going to have to change the rules once again to force this monstrosity of a bill down our throats.

    My parents are lifetime Democrats and my mom called me to remind me to vote tomorrow, for Scott Brown. That shocked me. Obama, Reid and Pelosi had all the power and couldn't get anything done but add to our deficit and raise taxes.

    January 18, 2010 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  13. Gary in Portsmouth, VA

    I already have a government health care plan and I really love it. Little to no out of pocket expense. It's call federal government. I was active duty military for 16 years and now a dependent of an active duty servicemember. I think the rest of american needs to get on board with the healthcare agenda. My mother once said a hard head makes a soft behind. If the dems loose the 60th senator we are never going to get much done for the next 3 years. We will be where we are today while everything positive pass us by. Good luck america. Your stubborn ways and lack of openess to new ideas will block your prosperity. You don't know as much as you think you do.

    January 18, 2010 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  14. Mountain Dude

    Only Massachusetts can preserve Ted Kennedy's legacy. I can't see how they will go easily from the Massachusetts of Kennedy to the Massachusetts of Bush. I guess they were tired of Kennedy and his goals if this is the case. This is very sad.

    January 18, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  15. wg

    We better win for health reform sakes

    January 18, 2010 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  16. Chuck B

    How come it is ok for Republicans to filibuster when they are minority, but not good when Democrats try it.

    January 18, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  17. Mississippi Mrs.

    Most American people don't care if the Health Care bill dies a slow death or gets the guillotine in Massachusetts. We are planning the funeral and believe me, it will be the PEOPLES party!

    January 18, 2010 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  18. Kathy S. Cloughn

    We MUST get this bill passed to set a foundation for health care. We can then tweak it and make it into the best plan in the world. I am ashamed to say we do not have a national plan when I travel. This should be beyond politics, folks!

    January 18, 2010 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. Silence Dogoode

    Think away but even MA is onto you Democraps....no one wants this unconstitutional crap you are trying to pass....give it up and focus on repairing the gaping holes in medicare and medicaid...reducing unemployment and our national security.

    January 18, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  20. Vote for martha

    Martha Coakley is not the brightest lady, and she hasn't gotten the police to support her, but she will help us pass Health Care.
    She needs your vote.

    January 18, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  21. JonDie

    The Democratic Party, as always, is its own worst enemy. The results will be a return to the Bush-Cheney years.

    January 18, 2010 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Porter

    I am moving to MA, I suggest we all do to get health care.

    January 18, 2010 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  23. Steve in North Carolina

    They need to just give it up. Nobody in their right mind wants this piece of flawed legislation imposed on them. If you want to reform health care just go fix what we already have and get rid of the waste and fraud in our current system.

    If they continue down this path, they are going to lose more than Massachusetts.

    January 18, 2010 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  24. buckwheat

    If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

    January 18, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  25. Matt

    I have never seen a group of people screw up a filibuster-proof majority more than this session of Congress has. Perhaps Obama would have been better off with a balanced House and Senate. Certainly this huge majority has done him no good at all. Thanks, Washington, for failing to deliver once again.

    January 18, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
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