Smoky Mountains Sunrise

Monday, January 18, 2010

Panic Grips Health Negotiations as Brown Victory Looms Big

From LifeSiteNews
By Kathleen Gilbert

A sense of panic has begun to seep into Democrat party leaders' marathon of negotiations over the health bill, according to insider reports. The source of the panic appears to be the possibility that the Democrats may lose their filibuster-proof majoirty in Massachusetts' special U.S. Senate election Tuesday

The Hill reports that alarmed Democrat aides are already weighing options in case Massachusetts Democrat Martha Coakley loses against Republican Scott Brown in the special election to overtake Ted Kennedy's senate seat from interim senator Paul Kirk.

Running on an anti-health bill platform, the charismatic Brown has shocked the entrenched Massachusetts Democrat establishment by jumping just ahead of Coakley in polls just days before the election, after being behind by double-digits in December. A Public Policy Polling survey released Sunday showed Brown ahead by 5 points, 51-46%, within the poll's margin of error. The poll was released on the same day that President Obama traveled to Boston to shore up Coakley's falling approval ratings.

Brown has vowed to be the 41st vote against the health bill charging through Congress, which would shatter Senate Democrats' ability to stop a GOP filibuster.

Yet Democrats say they have a few last-ditch maneuvers up their sleeve to save the abortion-expanding bill. One possibility would be to ram the measure through before Brown is sworn in, which could take several weeks.

Another option would be to skip a second Senate vote on the bill by forcing the House to vote on the Senate version unamended; however aides say this would be unlikely to work.

Democrats have also discussed using a procedure called reconciliation, whereby only 51 senators would need to pass the bill. To qualify for reconciliation, the health bill would have to undergo considerable revamping in order to pass as a "budget" measure.

A fourth option that has been considered is to woo Senate Republican Olympia Snowe to provide a 60th vote; however, this too is considered unlikely, as the senator has been outspokenly critical of the bill's artificially rushed timetable.

On Friday, House and Senate leaders returned to the White House for a three-hour negotiating session, following negotiations with President Obama that continued through midnight the previous evening.

"I think we're getting very close," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) on CNBC Friday. "I would certainly hope that within the next 24, 48, 72 hours, we have a general agreement between the Senate and the House."

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