Democrats plan health strategy in case of Mass. senate loss 

By Susan Ferrechio Chief Congressional Correspondent The suddenly realistic prospect that Republican Scott Brown could win the Massachusetts Senate race has put a new wrinkle in the already complex health care negotiations in Congress. While the House and Senate wrangle over what provisions should be included in a final bill, they may have to cut their talks short and quickly pass the version approved by the Senate if Brown prevails. That's because a Brown victory would give Republicans 41 votes in the Senate, allowing them to block health care legislation through the use of the filibuster. The issue has become so critical that Brown is selling his opposition to the health care bill as a reason to vote for him. His opponent, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, is promising to be the 60th vote to pass the bill. Brown may have an advantage if the race becomes a referendum on the health bill, since poll number indicate shrinking public support for it. Democrats are already hard at work planning a way to quickly pass a bill in the event Brown is elected. They are weighing whether to simply send to the House the health care bill the Senate passed in December, which does not include a public option and taxes high-cost insurance plans. While many House liberals and workers' unions are opposed to the Senate bill, when faced with a filibuster, most of them would go along and hold out for changes to be made later.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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