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. George H.

    I am praying VERY hard that this Terrible Bill Dies!
    When are the People in Congress going to Listen to ALL the People?

    January 18, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. Tracy

    I doubt that Brown is going to win, but it is rather entertaining to see the Democrats squirm.

    January 18, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. Shibumi

    Skeletor Pelosi is back!! Do what is right, MA. Elect Brown. Send the Botox beee-otch to plan B which will truly infuriate America.
    BRING ON 2010!!!!!

    January 18, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  4. Bad politics

    These corrupt politicians will find a way to push the healthcare bill that over 60% of Americans done want through. The bill is really bad, why the rush to pass it (expensive, more debt, doesn't cover 15M people, doesn't reduce healthcare costs,...

    I have lost all respect for Pelosi, Reid and now Obama for the corruption and lack of transparency that they have shown. The lies, bribes, bullying and the 'win at all costs' mentality is sick.

    The states are better equipped to handle healthcare insurance reform anyway (see MA's system).

    Vote the bums out.

    January 18, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  5. StopGovTakeoverNow

    God speed Massachusetts, I have never placed so much hope in one states ability to affect true democracy. The obnoxious stampede that the Dems are in is an affront to the citizens of this great nation. Obamacare deserves real debate, consideration and should reflect the best interest of the people NOT, the Unions, the Insurance Companies, or BO's Stump speeches.

    January 18, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. rob

    The message to Dems if Brown wins should be to start over on this very unpopular bill and focus on the economy from now to election day in Nov. If they try any tricks to get this done, the public will see through it immediately and no amount of spinning from the Dems or their many friends in the MSM would save them from losing everything in the Mid terms.

    January 18, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. chris tx

    If it doesn't happen now, nothing will happen... the GOP doesn't want America's children insured, literally makes 0 effort help stop corruption and 100% effort to bring Brush's great economic policies back.

    January 18, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  8. james

    The PLAN is to pass it with 60 votes. But if Brown wins the only way to do that is rush the vote before Brown can be sworn in, and one of those goody two-shoes Senate moderates might just step up and say we have to have the true Massachusetts senator here to take the vote. Then the plan has to be reconciliation, and if the Democrats try that they will be so villified by the public that they may lose 100 or 150 seats in November. The Democrats are praying Coakley somehow wins, but a poll done over the weekend now shows Brown up 5. I have to admit it's hard to believe the most liberal state in America would vote for a Republican, but if they do the Dems are absolutely screwed.

    January 18, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. Mike

    I think you are running out of people to bribe.

    January 18, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. Paul in Arizona

    So. . . .one way or another, they'll be prepared to shove this awful bill down our throats?

    January 18, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  11. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I still don't understand why Republicans oppose this reform idea so badly. Where are their ideas? Just a note, "tort reform" sounds good, but that doesn't stop the malpractice insurance companies from keeping rates at the same level or raising them. This, to me at least, is just a red herring.

    January 18, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. Joe, Chicago IL

    If Brown wins, he will not be sworn in for months. There will be plenty of 'recounts' and 'discovery' of missing ballots. Plenty of time to push through the healthcare bill.

    Just drive the Impala from Minnesota to Mass. In its trunk can be found a couple of 'newly discovered' ballot boxes. Courts will say that the ballot boxes with broken seals are okay, because the locked trunk was secure enough. Hopefully these boxes have coakley votes, instead of Franken votes.

    Just remember put a Coakley bumper sticker over the Franken sticker.

    January 18, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. John

    If Coakley wins, America loses badly

    January 18, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. Ron

    I find your "backup plan" the same as your "exit plan". Start packing your bags because the PEOPLE want their country back and will take it back in 2010 and 2012.

    January 18, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  15. lila

    Coakley needs to come out against tax funded abortion and say she will work with Obama and other democrats to have the bill restrict any tax payer money at all going towards any abortion that does not directly threaten the mothers life.
    That will calm Catholics. It might upset women lib groups.. but come on.. the majority of Americans don't want their tax money for a health care bill going towards unknown females abortions unless it is a matter of life and death to the mother.
    Rape, incest.. there are other organizations that could help and those can be charity founded. Coakley needs to be on the side of the majority on this issue. It might to too late though..

    January 18, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Marcus Mead

    I understand why they would want to put forth a good game day face, but come on...

    No Plan? No talks? These people are one of the following:

    * Lying
    * Stupid not to plan ahead just in case
    * Think Americans are stupid enough to believe there are no plans or talks

    None of those options bode well for the Obama administration.

    January 18, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  17. joe smith

    what the democrats need to consider, and check into very quickly, is their retirement, because after the next few years of tax, tax ,tax..these folks will be on the ouside looking in..this election in Massachusetts points up the fact that the late Senator had really no influence..just connections..they are over, and a new day is dawning..

    January 18, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  18. Steve

    So the Whitehouse has no contingency plans if Coakley loses the Senate race. I'm set to sell them a bridge to Brooklyn!

    January 18, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. Four and The Door

    ...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...
    The sad thing is that long ago this stopped being about putting together the best health care reform for the American people and morphed into being about Obama's political agenda. At least this explains how the bill became so expensive and off target.

    I like Option D. Start over and create something that actually improves health care and doesn't make it just another bloated government bureaucracy.

    January 18, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  20. Mesa Mick

    As usual, the MSN makes up a story for ratings and the "Idiot America" all of a sudden thinks there is a real issue.

    All this talk about Coakley not winning is nothing more than the MSN being drama queens to gin up ratings, a "hot" topic for political talking heads job security and wishful thinking on the part of rethuglicons.

    If by some freaky act of nature Brown does win then brace for it America. If you think things are tough now just wait – 2 years from now 2010 will seem like the "good times" and the rethugs will get their way – Hoovervilles across America...

    January 18, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. DALE

    If they loose this it's nobody's fault but ours. We could have stopped all the bickering and actually rammed this down the GOP throats. We are our own worst enemy.

    January 18, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Lets see if the people of Mass. fall for a "Ken doll"with a bag full of death assurance company money.Some people will buy a bag of cow dung if its put in pretty packaging.hahaha

    January 18, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |

    These thugs have been thinking of ways since day one to shove the Health Tax Bill down our throats. Piglosi, Raid, and Obowma will continue to go against the American people. The only ones they are worried about are the Unions. This is the most corrupted administration since Hitler.

    January 18, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. Milo in Atlanta

    Face it Dems, we screwed up in 2009.

    The administration picked the wrong signature issue for 2009 (job creation should have been #1); miscalculated chances of passage, failed to recognize political realities, overreached and undersold. The process of drafting the bill was a hodgepodge mess. We were blind-sighted by the Massachusetts runoff , ran an incompetent campaign at the state level (how could the Republicans stomp us on Social Networking after Obama mastered the art?); and failed to make the Mass. runoff as a priority on a national level, until it was too late.

    I am a lifelong loyal Dem in principle and on platform issues; but we are an inept failure at execution and implementation. Fail. Fail. Fail.

    We Dems might not get the opportunity to do anything productive for 10 years at this rate. Once again, we shot ourselves in the foot.

    January 18, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  25. bts

    Vote to get things done. Right now Republicans have showed that they are NOT interested in getting ANYTHING done on Obama's watch. So a Republican vote is for a stagnant government. Which by the way for those concerned about govt waste, that's a HUGH waste of money. At least with the Democrats, much needed work and reforms can happen.

    January 18, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
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