Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 19, 2009

Zounds! (or, golly gee, or the exclamation of your choice) The Republican won in Massachusetts! Does this matter nationally? You bet. Why? Health care.

It takes sixty votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. Yesterday, the Democrats had sixty. Today, they have fifty-nine. So the Republicans can filibuster health care and quite possibly kill it. Are there ways around this? Yes, but they're tricky, especially when Democrats will be worrying about becoming the next Martha Coakley--the Massachusetts loser. The winner, Republican Scott Brown, campaigned specifically against the health care bill. That seems to have worked for him.

The easiest way to get a bill would be to have the House pass the version the Senate's already approved. Several House Democrats have already said they won't go along with that, and the House version of the bill passed by only a handful of votes in the first place.

Another way would be to get the House to pass the Senate bill, and then a second bill cleaning up what the House doesn't like in the Senate bill, and then (I said this was tricky) get the Senate to pass that bill under a process called reconciliation, which needs only fifty-one votes, not sixty. To "tricky" add "unlikely." POLITICO today quotes moderate Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana as saying he thinks his party's agenda has wandered too far to the left. People, he told ABC News, "just don't believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems. That...has got to be corrected."

Health care? Don't hold your breath.

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