Would a Brown Win Derail Healthcare Reform?

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There's a fair amount of debate in the liberal blogosphere about what to do if Republican Scott Brown wins the Massachusetts special election on Tuesday.  It looks like there are essentially two options that get health care passed:  pass the Senate bill, or pass something else really, really quickly.

I don't think number two is going to work.  They have about ten days between election and certification.  There's been talk of delaying either the certification or the seating, but while this is possible, I don't think the Democrats dare do this (nor do I know that they want to commit a fairly outrageous breach of the electoral process).  Moreover, it may be moot:  apparently, the Senate precedent is that Kirk loses his ability to vote the day of the special election. 

Of course, the Senate could violate its own precedent.  But you can be damn sure the Republicans would turn it into a circus akin to Bush v. Gore, and the political cost would be appalling; I'm not sure it's too much to say that any Blue Dog who voted for such a procedural shift would probably lose their seat come fall.  I'm sure it's a price that Pelosi is willing to pay--but I'm not sure the Blue Dogs are.

So it comes down to the Senate bill.  Is Stupak serious about holding out, or was he only playing super-hardball?  If he and his little band of merry pro-lifers are serious, the bill dies; I don't think that Pelosi can make up their votes, especially when you consider that the popularity of this thing has dropped even further since they took them.  They might pass the Senate bill and promise to amend it immediately, but that's pretty dicey, especially since Scott Brown is pro-choice. 

If he's just being a tough negotiator, maybe it passes--but I'm betting that even if Stupak caves, there will be a lot of other Blue Dogs with insurmountable objections to the bill.  The problem with Brown's election is not just that it would the Democrats of a seat in the Senate.  It's that it would send a chill down the spine of every Democrat who is not sitting in an ultra-safe, ultra-liberal seat.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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