Is Obamacare Really Dead? 

Is health care reform, President Barack Obama’s signature initiative, effectively dead in the wake of Republican Scott Brown’s stunning upset in the Massachusetts special election?

After all, Brown will enable the GOP to filibuster health care, having campaigned on the promise that he would oppose the Democrats’ agenda.

However, if the voters were sending a message to Washington, it doesn’t seem the message was received. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who successfully ushered her version of Obamacare through the House on Nov. 7, put to rest the notion that she was abandoning health care, assuring the U.S. Conference of Mayors, “we will move forward.”

The White House seemed similarly intractable. Obama chief advisor David Axlerod told Politico, “I think that it would be a terrible mistake to walk away now. If we don’t pass the bill, all we have is the stigma of a caricature that was put on it. That would be the worst result for everybody who has supported this bill.”

Typically tin-eared of the White House to assume that the wishes of those who support the bill outweigh the wishes of the vast majority of Americans who oppose it — 56 percent, in fact, according to the latest Rasmussen poll.

Assuming the Democrats do move forward with health care, what are their options, and how realistic are they? They could abandon their efforts to merge the House and Senate bills by pushing the Senate bill to vote in the House in toto, which if passed would then go straight to the President’s desk, bypassing Brown and his promised obstructionism.

But the House bill passed in November with a razor slim margin of 220-215, and that was before shady Senate bargains from Sen. Ben Nelson’s, D-Neb., “Cornhusker Kickback” — an exemption for his state from expanded Medicaid costs — and the brazen agreement to exempt unions from a tax on high-end insurance premiums, caused voter anger to boil over into the election of a Republican to a Senate seat held by a Kennedy (or a Kennedy place-holder) since 1953.

In addition, the Senate bill contains many provisions — the tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans, the absence of the public option — that are anathema to many in Pelosi’s caucus.

“The Senate bill clearly is better than nothing,” notes House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a feeble attempt to rally his troops. But at least one key Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, disagrees, saying that the Senate bill’s anti-abortion provisions are insufficiently stringent for himself and allied pro-life Democrats, and that he cannot support the bill as written.

All of this adds up to the near impossibility of the House swallowing the Senate bill, a fact which Pelosi acknowledged on Thursday when she admitted to reporters, “In its present form without any changes I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House. I don’t see the votes for it at this time.”

Other options, such as passing some aspects of the bill in a budgetary process only requiring 51 votes in the Senate, would make Congress seem intent on bypassing the plainly expressed will of the people, and only further enrage an already riled public. Will Congressional leaders nonetheless attempt such tactics? In normal times, such political suicide would seem beyond the realm of possibility.

But these are not normal times, and Democrats’ health care fetish has all year seemed to drive all other considerations from their minds — including self-preservation.

Matt Patterson is a policy analyst for the National Center For Public Policy Research and a National Review Institute Washington Fellow. His email is

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