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. Elliott Carlin

    The only back-up plan Pelosi has intimate knowledge of is when the US Air Force doesn't provide her jets for her trips to Europe.

    Can't wait for many of these clowns to be Daschled in 2010 and 2012.

    January 18, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  2. Bubble of Sanity

    They need not worry. The same machine that stole elections in Alaska and Minnesota in 2008 will be able to find enough nonexistent voters to put Coakley over the top, and the Kennedy throne will be safe from the will of the unwashed masses.

    The Democratic party now knows that the majority of Americans do not want the horrible monstrosity that is being called a "health care bill," with all its pork and mismanagement. But for some reason, that does not stop them from forcing it on us.

    "The 'people' have spoken."

    Brown will get more votes initially, but Coakley will win after sufficient recounts.

    January 18, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  3. Bob in Pa

    It is sad that they consider they need the "critical 60th Senate vote". It tells you that there is something fundamentally wrong with the bill.

    January 18, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  4. David

    We don't want this sorry excuse for "reform". The only thing this bill will do is increase our deficit and raise prices for everyone. If it is not good enough for the senators to participate in than it is not good enough for all Americans.

    January 18, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  5. Dave

    UNBELIEVABLE – I thought this was a democracy. The majority of Americans obviously think this is a terrible idea yet these inept bunch of losers want to pass it anyway.

    January 18, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  6. Chad from Tampa

    How about listening to the American people for a change and scrap this health care mess.

    January 18, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  7. xrocketeer

    this is not just politics as usual. It is beyond that. These people are self distructing, Their leader has put all his eggs in one basket and will not take "NO" for an answer. If they continue, they will be thrown out of office. That's sad, because it will just go the other way. The idiots on the other side are just as bad. We need a 50-50 split, then they would have to work together. Possiably a third party, and a three way split. Having one party in absolute power dosen't work.

    January 18, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  8. chaz in colorado

    Yep, better have a contingency plan. The GOP is willing to keep the American people from having the health care they deserve and need in order to make the Dems look bad. If the Republicans would work as hard to help the country as they are in trying to make the Dems fail, think of much could be accomplished.

    January 18, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  9. dg

    just another way to burn the american people

    January 18, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  10. J

    You know...when Republicans talked about circumventing procedural rules during the Bush administration, it was deemed the "Nuclear Option" and vilified in the press as cheating the democratic process. Seems to me that this is already being viewed by the media as an acceptable option to accomplish the Obama administration's #1 goal.

    January 18, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  11. Henry Miller, Libertarian

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

    What would cause a "huge outcry" would be if the Democrats, in the greatest act of tyranny since before the Civil War, forced the passage of a health care "reform" bill that a majority of the American people do not want!

    It is the obligation of members of Congress to represent the will of their constituents, not to impose on American citizens things Congress thinks should be done "for their own good," or that they think Americans "ought to want." There is no excuse for members of Congress to ignore the express desires and intents of the voters, and doing so is an egregious betrayal of the trust the voters placed in them.

    One of the profound evils of political parties is that politicians often show more loyalty to their parties than to the citizens they're supposed to represent.

    January 18, 2010 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  12. Will

    Why do they need either a "backup plan" or 60 votes?

    I say go ahead and let the Republicans filibuster. Let them demonstrate how truly worthless they are as a political party and when they finally get done making fools of themselves, pass this with a simple majority.

    I was just asked to pay $208 for a medication that costs less than $5 to make because my insurance doesn't cover it. We need reform desperately.

    January 18, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  13. John Mavrovich

    "an increasingly distrustful public."? That's quite an understatement.
    I can no longer trust my government to do anything other than cram their agenda down everyones' throats. This is not the America it used to be. I took an oath in the military. Our government leaders take the same oath. I took mine honorably.

    January 18, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  14. Mike in VA

    I vote for – Their health care overhaul dies.
    It never was about health care reform, but more Fed control over it's people.

    January 18, 2010 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  15. wake up

    maybe instead of a scummy "political" issue, the dems will realize, that people hate this health care bill...people hate buy-offs and chicago politics, people don't want to be in genearational debt....DEMS, WAKE UP.

    January 18, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  16. GOPer

    Nancy P and Harry R could screw up a one car funeral. Harry will be voted out and Nancy is around to stay. Amazing to see how somebody so dense could drag down America.

    January 18, 2010 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  17. gregory

    The dem,s blew this the should always take no prisoner they should have been in mass. early. The DNC is clue less all on this hard fighting and we lose because you clown are ball less and no fight. This is not what i voted for a bunch of punks with no back bone!!!

    January 18, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  18. Patrick

    Come on MA don't be fools and vote for Brown.

    The impact on the country is too great – you need to vote Coakley in order to get real positive change done. We need Health Care Reform now! We need Financial Reform Now! We need our country to convert more to green energy now!!

    Do you really think that Brown will help institute this positive change??? on the contrary he will impact more Americans in a negative way then you may realize.

    I live in IL and fear what Brown winning in MA can do to this country – he will only stall and side with Fat cat bankers, insurance companies, and oil men – which was what we need to break away from.

    Come on MA – don't flush America's opportunity to positively changes things here after 8 dreadful REPUBLICAN YEARS. Do you really want to go back to that?

    January 18, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  19. Hugo

    Liars liars pants on fires! The Democratic Congress way of business, if you can't get it legally, find another route to try and cram it up the American public's arse! Funny, it seems the Kennedy network of political corruption may have died with Sir Teddy!

    January 18, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  20. John

    Pelosi and Reid look worried...... very worried.

    Don't you people understand that the nation is disgusted with your uncontrolled spending and ridiculous watered down Health Care Bill?
    Why does this have to be forced down our throats? Can't we have a trransparent debate? Do you possibly think this go well with the public if you short-cut around Brown's vote if he should win?

    November is going to be a slaughter for the Democrats....... true story.

    January 18, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  21. Dutch the Great

    Scrub the Senate bill and pass the House bill under reconciliation.

    January 18, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. vlk

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

    Lying, cheating government. The American people might as well be lab rats. And poor Obozo put so much political capital into passing a reform bill and the poor Demos spent much of last year working on it, they feel not passing it is unthinkable. Well, millions of Americans have worked their butts off and what did that get us? You gave all our money away to crooks. You robbed everyone's retirement, you put millions out of work. Congress wastes their time while Americans go broke. I am sickened.

    January 18, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. barbara kramar

    No dirty tricks,please. Be above board and wait for the new Senator. The rules says 60,make it 60.

    January 18, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  24. Ronald Micucci

    I read this morning about recent Taliban raids. Somebody in Washington should tell Martha Coakley about it. This clueless lady does not deserve to even have her name on the ballot. We.re talking about holding a Senate seat. God help us!

    January 18, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. Bob

    Could another option be creating a heath care plan acceptable to some on both sides?

    January 18, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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