State Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, is moving up to the U.S. Senate, having defeated his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, in yesterday's special election in that state to elect the successor to the late Ted Kennedy. The margin of victory was 52% to 47%.
Republicans will have 41 senators, so, on a party line vote, they can defeat a cloture motion, i.e., sustain a filibuster against Democratic-sponsored legislation.
The New York Times reports that at least some congressional Democrats are resisting the notion of parliamentary maneuvers that could save their party's health care bill. Without citing names or numbers, the Times writes that "House members indicated they would not quickly pass the bill the Senate approved last month." Such a move would eliminate the need for an additional Senate vote. The article also quotes Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virgina, as opposing the tactic of sneaking in a Senate vote before Brown takes office.
As with any election, no one factor determined the result. There is a consensus across the political spectrum that Coakley ran a poor campaign. Last night, when she (as Brown also did) paid tribute to Kennedy, she attempted to quote from Kennedy's concession speech to the 1980 Democratic National Convention, as he ended his campaign for his party's presidential nomination. Tone-deaf to the end, Coakley turned Kennedy's poetic "the dream shall never die" into a more prosaic "the dream lives on."
But anyone who tries to deny that the vote was a repudiation of Democrats more generally, and their health care legislation, must have (unlike one of that party's elder statesmen) inhaled.
Most of the talk before yesterday's election was about the Democrats using every tactic at their disposal to complete the legislative process on their health care bill. Now, on the morning after, reports from Capitol Hill indicate that the Democrats there are losing their resolve to press the issue in a way that's contrary to the apparent intent of the electorate.
The situation seems so fluid this morning, that I'm not in the mood to hazard any predictions. Dare we hope that they'll go back to the drawing board, and start over with a plan that involves common-sense regulation of a free-market-based health care system?