Dems lose Super Majority in Senate
Posted by obama the antichrist on January 22, 2010
Posted on Thu, Jan. 21, 2010
Mass. election stalls overhaul
With an opponent chosen, and smaller Senate ranks, Democrats spoke of going more slowly on health care.
By David Lightman and William Douglas
WASHINGTON – Democrats’ efforts to overhaul the health-care system stalled yesterday – and could be scaled back substantially – as suddenly somber lawmakers struggled to absorb Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.
Brown will become the Republicans’ 41st seat when he takes office, probably in about two weeks.
If Republicans maintain their unity, as they have for months, their 41 Senate votes can block Democratic action on almost anything.
The Democrats’ 60-vote partisan strategy for pushing through legislation appears dead. Instead, party members echoed a message they heard from President Obama: “The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated,” he told ABC News. “People in Massachusetts have spoken. He’s got to be part of that process.”
Brown upset Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley on Tuesday in one of the most reliably Democratic states, in the special election to finish the term of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a longtime champion of reforming the health-care system.
Senate Democrats, after meeting privately yesterday for about two hours on Capitol Hill, agreed to slow down their health-care crusade. “We’re not going to rush into anything,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said.
Obama also advised Congress to “move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on.”
But he also told ABC: “Now, I could have said, ‘Well, we’ll just do what’s safe; we’ll just take on those things that are completely noncontroversial.’ The problem is: The things that are noncontroversial end up being the things that don’t solve the problem.”
Democratic lawmakers, and apparently some Republicans, generally agree on barring insurers from denying coverage or charging more because of existing medical conditions, helping people pay for policies, and ending sex-based rates.
Flash points in the legislation now in jeopardy include how much, if at all, government should get involved in running an insurance plan or encouraging multistate private plans to compete with existing insurers. Lawmakers have also been at odds over whether taxes should be raised to help pay for expansion of coverage.
Liberal Democrats in both houses of Congress also confront two blocs – moderate Democrats and all Republicans – whose political outlook suddenly changed with Tuesday’s results.
Centrist Democrats signaled that they fear that the mood evident in Massachusetts has spread into their states and districts and could boost their opponents in November’s midterm elections. That may make them less inclined to follow Obama’s lead.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.) told ABC News, “The only way we are able to govern successfully in this country is by liberals and progressives making common cause with independents and moderates.”
Democrats acknowledged that they needed to show more sensitivity to the concerns of a public battered by the worst recession in 70 years, as Americans still routinely see foreclosures in their neighborhoods, a financial system in which banks don’t seem to be punished for irresponsible behavior, and a government perhaps too eager to inject itself into their health-care decisions.
Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) urged giving new attention to a jobs-creation package, a view echoed by other moderates who returned this week from a winter recess saying their constituents were more worried about the economy than overhauling health care.
“The time for doing health care has narrowed substantially,” Casey said. “We’ve got to get back to jobs and come up with a specific short-term strategy to create jobs.”
Republicans, who have rarely cooperated with Democrats in this Congress, said they were ready now to do business with Democrats.
“What we ought to do . . . is stop, start over, go step by step, and concentrate on fixing the problem, which is rising costs,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).
Republican leaders have made opposition to the Democrats’ health-care overhaul a virtual litmus test of party loyalty. When the House and Senate voted on their versions of the legislation late last year, only one Republican – Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana – voted yes.
Some Democrats accept that rethinking is in order.
“The size of this [bill] troubles people,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.). “It’s worth taking some time and having the president go out there and go over it piece by piece.”
Alternatively, the House may simply vote on the health-care version that the Senate passed Dec. 24. If the House were to approve it without changes, Obama’s signature would enact it into law.
Rep. Danny Davis (D., Ill.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that accepting the Senate bill would be better than doing nothing. “I think it would be devastating not to make some progress,” Davis said.
But liberals object to the Senate’s proposed tax on high-end insurance policies, and antiabortion Democrats dislike the Senate’s less restrictive policies on federal funds.
Brown’s victory also dimmed prospects for legislation to limit carbon-dioxide emissions.
The incoming senator opposes the emissions-trading program that Obama says is needed to fight climate change. Opponents say cap-and-trade would boost costs and cut jobs in an already-troubled economy.
The House passed a cap-and-trade bill in June. But in the Senate, Feinstein said yesterday, “a large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”