January 18th, 2010
10:20 AM ET
5 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. Raj

    Wow the idea of looking at the polls to see this is unpopular has just crossed the minds of Congress. These guys are a joke. They could care less what the people thought of any of these bills. Look at the polling numbers WE (Americans) hate this bill. The concept of a seat in MA being up for contention was preposterous for over 2 decades.... Since this is CNN, I expect the crazies to yell that actually the polling numbers are wrong or the people against this bill are stupid...But the numbers still don't lie.

    January 18, 2010 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. Jim

    Sounds like reconciliation is the backup.

    January 18, 2010 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. dude palin

    I'll give you a plan.Since when is 60 a majority !! 51 votes and get it done! Grow a set and do the right thing.We need health care for all !

    January 18, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Let's do it Coakley

    People of Mass please don't let Brown win just to block health care reform. He will block the progress on other initiatives also just to payback the people who paid for his campaign. Republicans have done absolutely nothing this pass year to help or at least compromise and Brown will just add fuel to the fire.

    January 18, 2010 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  5. New Yorker

    Let's get one thing straight right now: Any way you look at it, this is a clear indication that the liberal agenda is not what this country wants. We are not ready to throw in the towel and let the corrupt Socialists take over completely. If Coakley wins,there will be a grass roots uprising of such magnitude that all of the Democrats will be tossed out of office. If Brown wins, they will just lose their majority.

    January 18, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. a real American

    Here's an option that I doubt will be considered by the idiots in Congress: listen to the American people!! Time after time the public has spoken, and it's pretty clear that we want real reform and not a government takeover.

    January 18, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  7. GD

    Where in the concept of Democracy does a 41% minority get to decide the fate of the people? It's time to change the Senate rules and end the madness. To get get a health care bill thru the Senate they had to give in to a few blackmailers and essentially "strip out the beef and replace it with pork". But for the silly 60 vote custom we could have got a much better bill. Maybe, not likely but maybe, even a few Republicans would have decided to participate if the passage was inevitable and the health care bill would have been even better.

    January 18, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  8. Nadai

    Go Ahead Dems and pass it. It will be the last piece of legislation the Democrats will have the luxury of passing with a majority in both houses. The people will speak tomorrow in Mass and in November in the rest of the country. They will vote out every Dem running that voted for this unconstitutional bill! How dare you steal our country from us "We the people"!

    January 18, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. Joshua College Station Texas

    What a shame. Most of the bill really helps Americans. Republicans suck.

    January 18, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  10. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    50 senate votes plus Joe Biden as the tiebreaker would be enough to get this done.

    This was how Bush got his unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy through the senate.

    January 18, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  11. Matt

    " 'We think Coakley will win this race,' Gibbs said."

    Well there's another article in the Ticker today reporting that Democratic insiders secertly think Coakley is going to lose, so surprise surprise, someone isn't telling the trugth here.

    January 18, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  12. Beasley

    "We think Coakley will win this race," Gibbs said.

    And when you return from Mars, Mr. Gibbs, you will find your super-majority gone.

    The thing that's driving this impending upset is the arrogance of the Democratic Party. This is the biggest piece of social legislation since Johnson's Great Society, and it deserves full and open debate. There is no deadline to pass this. A good bill would have bi-partisan support.

    By the way, the Massachusetts Democratic Party hasn't helped Martha Coakley, either. We've had a 25% increase in the state sales tax, and its scope was broadened as well. This was done to cover costs in mismanaged state agencies like the Turnpike Authority and Transit Authority, which benefit only a small part of the state's citizens. Meanwhile, state aid to cities and towns, which largely goes to fund education, is being cut. People are ready for any alternative to this one-party rule that has been imposed upon us.

    January 18, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  13. my jeepnee

    Why can't they just see what we want and stop trying to do a end-around to get what they want done.

    January 18, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  14. Dar

    The Dems will do anything to grt this pig of a bill passed. Pelosi is a strisght up lier if she says they are not talking already, Their about to crap their pants over Brown.

    how could this be happening: Because the people are sick to death of the Dems and their wreakless spending and lies.

    Soon other Dems will follow suit and be gone, just like Reid and Pelosi will be. Thank God.

    2010/2012 Change is coming

    January 18, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  15. Fitz In Texas

    Yeah, that's what worries me....the "backup plan" these crooks are trying to come up with.

    January 18, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  16. steve

    The Dems painted themselves into this corner. If they had only made any attempt at a true bi-partisan approach, a much better bill would've been developed and this would already be behind us. Instead they have cobbled together a monstrosity of a bill that nobody wants, in an attempt for Obama to save face. How telling is it that Obama couldn't even face the topic when campaigning in Mass. Instead, he had to smugly attack working class folks driving pick-up trucks. Start all over, and get it right this time!!!

    January 18, 2010 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  17. NVa Native

    We all know the Repubs will do anything to make our President fail. As we saw during the Bush/Cheney years they don't care how destructive their actions are to the middle class or our country, they only care about power and money.
    The Dems need to do anything and everything to defeat the Repubs fascist ideology and make America strong again by supporting the progressive agendas that rebuild our middle-class.

    January 18, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  18. Matt Fitzgerald

    Should Mr. Brown pull out a close win surely the repubs would understand if it was as difficult and time consuming as the Franken race in Minnesota. I'm sure many of their arguments from then would apply here.

    January 18, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  19. AnProf

    Too bad the Democrats do not heed the writing on the wall. Go back to square one on health care reform, include true bipartisan input - more competition across state lines, tort reform, etc. No sweetheart deals and bribes. Open transparency. Respect your constituents. No thousand page bills with layers and layers of medical panels and bureaucracy. Post the legislation and actually READ it before voting. Don't bankrupt our nation and my children's future with crushing taxes.

    January 18, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. nan coll

    What does it say about a candidate when the President of the US feels compelled to tell voters they should vote for a person. Not specifics as to why just do as I say.
    It tells me the person cannot form their own judgment and is silently telling us she/he will blindly follow the Pied piper.
    Nan C

    January 18, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  21. Buck

    <<<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."<<<

    Taking the top white house aides at their word (I know that's always risky), it seems scary that they wouldn't be discussing this. It makes me wonder what other contngency plans they aren't discussing. Do they have contingency plans for Iran, iraq, Afghanistan?? Any contigency plans if their monster of a health care bill doesn't work as planned (which seems likely)??

    Seems like very poor leadership.

    January 18, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  22. running scared?

    Why doesn't the Obama administration recognize that this country doesn't want government health care rammed down their throats?

    Looks like this has nothing to do with taking care of Americans but more like Obama wishing to avoid another personal and political failure.

    If they believe Coakley will win, why the rush to Massachusetts?

    And, by the way, who paid for the trip to Massachusetts?

    January 18, 2010 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  23. ed

    Hide the women and children and keep your hand on your wallet, Democrats are talking behind closed doors and making promises again.

    January 18, 2010 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  24. Bob in Pa

    It's 4th and 10 folks, you're on your own 20. It's tome to punt, not do an end around run.

    January 18, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  25. Jeff

    That's right commies, hold another closed door meeting at the Kremlin er I mean White House and tell the rest of us what you are going to do to us. Don't worry about that troublesome constitution.

    I know what we're going to you in November.

    January 18, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
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