How the State Elections Could Strengthen Health Care Reform

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Putting aside prognostications about the long-term impact, one immediate result of Tuesday's elections is that Democrats gained two seats in the House of Representatives. Of the 435 voting members, 258 are now Democrats. This isn't a huge increase, but every vote counts in the contentious wrangling over health care reform. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will need every vote to secure strong legislation.

With Harry Reid predicting that reform is unlikely to receive a final vote until next year, new Democratic Reps Bill Owens and John Garamendi will be present to vote on health care. They may not be the deciding factors on reform, but could their votes help Democrats pass a more ambitious bill?

  • 'Breathing Room' on Health Care Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler says every vote matters. "Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could afford to lose no more than 38 Democratic votes on a landmark health care reform bill. Next week, after Owens and Garamendi are sworn in, she can lose up to 40. For legislation this historic and far-reaching, she'll need every vote she can get-and both seem likely to support reform," he writes. "So while last night's election results are being cast widely as a victory for Republicans, in a very real, and immediate sense, they were a victory for Democratic leaders in the House, who will soon enjoy a bit more breathing room."
  • Govs Don't Vote on Health Care Matthew Yglesias insists the makeup of Congress matter far more than the symbolism of the gubernatorial racism. "The overwhelming lesson of 2009 in Washington DC has been, I think, that the cold hard facts about vote counts matter more--a lot more--than airy considerations about momentum and the like," he writes. "The governor of New Jersey doesn't have a vote on health care or energy or financial regulation or the budget or anything else. The Representative from the 10th District of California does, and so does the Representative from the 23rd District of New York."
  • Garamendi Likes Single-Payer Think Progress blogger Zaid Jilani gushes over the liberal record Garamendi brings to Congress, including his desire for that most liberal of health care plans: single-payer. "What makes Garamendi's lead all the more impressive is his progressive stances. While CA-10 was previously held by a Democrat, Tauscher legislated as a centrist," Jilani writes. "Garamendi, on the other hand, is an unabashed liberal. He is a strong supporter not only of a public option, but of a single-payer Medicare-for-all health care system, supports the creation of an exit strategy from Afghanistan, and actually defeated the hand-picked candidate for the Democratic endorsement."
  • Last Night's 'Biggest Story' A liberal blogger on TalkLeft put it simply. "That's two more votes for a public option. That's the biggest story of the night."

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