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. Nancy

    Hopefully, the good people of Mass will do the right thing and put Brown in this senate seat, if for no other reason than to force Democrats to take a step toward the center. I have grown ashamed of my own party. They've taken such a giant step to the left that I don't even recognize them any more.

    January 18, 2010 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  2. gregory

    The dem,s blew this they should always take no prisoner they should have been in mass. early. The DNC is clue less all of this hard fighting and we lose because you clowns are ball less and no fight. This is not what i voted for a bunch of punks with no back bone!!! You must learn to fight to win. you mess around all last year and did not pass health care and it is all about to go down the drain because you clowns would not stand together I am Pissed!! no where to go Dem no back bone GOP heartless and full of gread!!!

    January 18, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  3. GuyInVA

    For Pete's sake people. This is Massachusetts. They lack the ability to elect a republican to "Teddy Kennedy's Seat". Either Coakley wins on election day, or the democrats count, recount, re-recount, etc., until she wins later. Did anyone recently seen Chris Matthews whining about how the democrats may not be able to "buy" enough votes to win? How about Ed Schultz telling the dems to cheat to keep the "bastards" out. Nothing but class from MSNBC. Someone ask Anita Dunn if she thinks they are a "legitimate" news network.

    January 18, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. Lee Matthews

    Scott Brown might as well be called Jesus Christ, because in terms of halting the exponential growth of government and putting a stop to this ultra left wing madness called health care reform, he is our savior. Government agencies are NOTORIOUS for LOOSING money and making a big headache out of relatively straight forward operation.
    Here are a few examples just off the top of my head:

    -THE DMV
    ETC............. I rest my case.

    January 18, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  5. Simpleton 123,478

    But the Ivy Leage elitists keep plunging forward with deaf ears and blinders on with the very egotistical assumption they know what is best for the little people, the simpletons, the commoners.

    Someone needs to break it to them that what their extremely liberal colleges and professors taught them was about 20% realistic and 80% total BS. Bring your snooty little noses down here with the rest of us commoners and start living like honorable Americans. In the meantime, we'll continue to laugh at YOUR ignorance.

    January 18, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. Mike B

    The Thank You Tour to the people of Massachusetts begins this Wednesday for electing Scott Brown to the Senate. We as a nation need to make vacation plans to this state sometime this year and personally thank the people for what I believe is the beginning of holding our elected officials accountable. Scott Brown hit a Home Run when he indicated he was not running for Ted Kennedy's seat, but for the People of Massachusetts seat. Come Novemeber, a lot of incumbents, both Democrat and Republican, should be looking for new jobs. Again, a Huge Thank You to the people of Massachusetts for doing the right thing and electing Scott Brown. Now, the rest of the country needs to follow Massachusett's lead.

    January 18, 2010 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    I can't help wondering how it would feel to realize that you were the one who PURPOSELY defeated the Health Care Bill thus depriving millions of your fellow citizens of the care they need. If Scott Brown is elected he should, in all fairness, exempt himself from the Health Care Plan available to all members of Congress – paid for BY the citizens of this country.

    January 18, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. Jane wants the truth

    Back up plan... there should be no back-up plan. What happened to the democracy of the United States of America in which the representatives of Congress are supposed to vote on the bills that are presented?

    January 18, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  9. ashley deans

    A solution to the health care crisis that should be acceptable to all parties is to implement a program that makes it easy for people to access preventive programs that have been proven to work. For example, the University of Wisconsin Medical College recently issued a press release that was headlined, "Transcendental Meditation helped heart disease patients lower risks of heart attack, stroke, and death by nearly 50 percent." Imagine that! This study confirms previous studies showing health care utilization in TM meditators was reduced by about half. If we can reduce health care utilization by 50% we will reduce human suffering, save trillions of dollars, and easily be able to afford health care for all.

    January 18, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    It's looking bleak for the home team..:(

    January 18, 2010 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. all the news that's fit to omit

    Ya right, just like we can keep our insurance, keep our doctor, nobody making less than 250,000 will see their taxes raised or the biggest uh, uh, uh, uh, uh lie about it being shown on C-SPAN.

    Lies and more lies and Coakley is going down because of hers, Patrick, Reid and soon enough Obambi, one by one.

    Scott Brown for US Senate.

    Dems should just vote for the Kennedy in the race as they are such a nice family.

    January 18, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. Charlie in Maine

    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Losing Ted's seat before this vote would certainly be the worst. The GOP does not deserve it but in politics sometimes that happens.

    January 18, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. GI Joe

    If the GOP has such good ideas, why was NOTHING done for 8 years?

    January 18, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. CJ

    White House is right, the Kennedy seat stays Dem tomorrow.

    We've pulled out all the stops, used the advantage of the tax payer funded presidential trip to campaign (Bush did it too) and mobilized the union blocs to hit the streets. Combined with our bigger presence and organization in Massachusetts and the repugs have no chance.

    January 18, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  15. Torch


    Regardless of how you feel. The problem here is that the DEMS are intent on doing this regardless of the consequences, and that my friends is tyranny.

    The DEMS know good and darn well this bill stinks and that American's do not want this. As mentioned before, this has nothing to do with Healthcare or health insurance. It's a blantant power grab in order to have the DEMS become the lone party in America.

    The Dems believe that their stupid and illiterate supporters will vote for them forever in the future with this new entitlement. When actually the truth is these people will be enslaved for generations unless this madness is stopped.

    January 18, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. Enough

    This should be a wake up call to all Democrats.............we don't want the crap you are trying to force down our throats. Pass this lousy bill and you are OUT.

    January 18, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. Duck Fallas

    Pull a Coleman- Franken. The response from the right will be amusing.

    Why are the Democrats going out of their way to make things easy for the white ring?

    We need a third party.

    January 18, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. Matt

    "The White House" thinks Coakley will win, so make a deal with us. If she wins we'll pass health care "reform" in any form. If she loses, you guys make no effort to pass it any other way, make no excuses and say nothing more about it.

    January 18, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. Slider

    The Party of the People!!!!

    Not so.

    January 18, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  20. Scott, Tucson

    These twits have the 60 votes now and they still can't pass this obamacare bill.

    January 18, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Illinois 2

    The back up plan should be to listen and do what their voters want done with the votes. Iam a long time democrat that wants the drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals regulated and stop ripping off the consumers. As for having everyone insured, this is not going to happen anyway and to force everyone to carry a government run plan, which will happen, is totally wrong.
    There should be group plans available for all those without insurance to be able to purchase and small companies move to group plans as well...

    January 18, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. Richard in Austin

    Wake up call here for the people of Massachusetts to get everybody out to vote for Martha Coakley in order to keep the health care reform bill alive. If she loses, the bill will be dead. Scott Brown says that his vote against the current bill would create another bill that is better, but he knows that is not true. The bill will die. I know it is not the ideal bill we might want to see, but it is a start, with room for improvement. It it dies, who knows when it will be brought up again. Call everybody you know in MA and them get out and vote for Coakley!

    January 18, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  23. tainopower

    plan B. in other words. We will shove this down the American peoples throats like it or not.

    January 18, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. Sam

    The economy is crumbling.

    People are losing their jobs.

    The democrats are more worried about passing an ideological bill while they have a super-majority instead of paying attention to any of the economic troubles in this country.

    What an embarrassment.

    January 18, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. joe m

    this is idiotic! the democratic leadership did not learn anything at all from the mistakes that the GOP made. frustrating since they had so much time to learn these lessons. if these jokers actually listened to the majority of americans, instead of the special interst groups and their own talking points, they would have a product that would already be law. ask any american about healthcare any they would passionately tell you that the system needs to be reformed. now the democratic leadership is looking for a plan B in the wake of a probable upset in the special elections to fill, of all people, the seat of Ted Kennedy. Kennedy would have found a way to try to get the republicans involved in the process and craft a bill that would have been approved by more americans. instead pelosi and reid have pushed bills that are more in line with their own ideological beleifs rather than the priorities of americans. this is frustrating!

    January 18, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
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