If Brown wins, the House may pass health bill in a panic 

Mark Tapscott has explored the question of whether a victory by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts would derail the president's health care package in Congress.

Mark and others have expressed concern that Massachusetts elections officials might sit on the results if the outcome was disputable and stall certification until the Senate could vote on a revised health bill, but Democrats have a much simpler way of getting health care through in the event of a Brown win: having the House pass the Senate bill in toto.

With Brown headed to town, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have plenty of of ammunition to keep liberal members in line, and moderates should like the Senate bill even more than the one so many of them already swallowed. Unions may not like losing their five-year health insurance tax exemption and there may be some complaints about the less stringent abortion language and individual state kickbacks (call it the full Nelson), but the president and the speaker would have a potent argument to make to dissidents: this or nothing.

I think the idea that the Senate would instead take up the modified bill and try to pass it on a 51-vote parliamentary trick is a ruse. I doubt there are even 51 senators who would walk the plank for such an insane plan. The parliamentarian can explode the legislation and Republicans could go after the pieces of the divided bill like killing snakes. Plus, it's not like Harry Reid has much clout with his caucus these days. He can hardly make credible promises about next year in light of his incipient defeat.

It’s actually more perilous on health care if Brown loses, especially if the race is close. Both houses would have to vote on the new bill after a CBO score on the latest bargain, featuring kickbacks, carve outs, and new taxes.

Doing so with angry voters from Wrentham to West Covina will have the likes of Earl Pomeroy and Evan Bayh wondering if they haven’t signed on to the worst bargain in a lifetime. If it’s scary in Massachusetts, it’s terrifying in Indiana. Note Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas’ retirement Friday.

In short -- if Brown does pull out the greatest political upset of a generation, Democrats will have every reason to dispose of the bill quickly -- either by flushing the legislation (a crippling blow to the Obama presidency) or by ping ponging the bill right to Obama's desk.

There is only one good outcome for Democrats in Washington: a surprise big win for Coakley. If Obama can deliver big for Coakley, it will be a shot in the arm for the party and his agenda. Everything else is bad news, it's just a question of how bad.

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Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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