The upset victory of little-known Massachusetts Republican state Sen. Scott Brown over a better-funded and better-known female Democrat in the U.S. Senate race Tuesday has many people wondering what will become of health care reform, President Barack Obama’s signature issue for much of the last year.
Many pundits say it’s dead, at least in the versions that passed the U.S. House and Senate in 2009. The Democrats who control the chamber now lack the supermajority needed to pass legislation without any GOP support. (Under longstanding Senate rules, 60 votes generally are required to advance a bill from debate to final passage.)
Brown’s victory leaves Democrats with 59 votes, some of them from moderate Democrats who only OK’d the bill under intense pressure from leadership and promises of aid for their home states. They are not eager to vote again on an issue unpopular with many constituents.
Many times, a small number - even one or two - members of the opposite party can be found to vote with the majority on an issue, making the 60 votes from one party unnecessary. But during the course of negotiations over the summer, the few GOP senators willing to say they could support a health care bill became disillusioned with the direction it took.
If anything can be passed now - a big question - it will likely be a smaller bill, falling far short of the president’s promises last spring of near-universal coverage.
The bill split the construction industry, with the Sheet Metal Workers, like most unions, generally supporting it - except for the Senate version’s tax on so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans - and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and National Roofing Contractors Association opposing its mandates and cost.
I wrote here several times I expected something to pass, because the political fallout would be too great for Democrats to come this far on a signature issue and fail. But now that looks very possible.
Personally, I never disagreed with many of the bills’ goals: broader coverage, elimination of coverage exclusions, and hopefully cost containments. And I didn't buy the "death panels" or some of the other claims about what the bills' contained. But I thought both bills seemed to be very expensive ways of insuring the 30 percent of Americans who lack coverage.
Many of the bills’ other accomplishments, such as the elimination of coverage caps and pre-existing-condition exclusions, are not things that most people, who have employer-provided group coverage, would benefit from. And multiple analyses said most workers would continue to see their share of insurance premiums increase, albeit possibly at a slightly slower rate.
What do you think? Will the bill pass this year in some form? What do you want to happen with health care?