The big question for Democrats: Has the time come to play dirty? To delay seating Scott Brown and push through the legislation as rapidly as possible?
Jon Chait is (so far as I am aware) the first liberal writer to argue the point explicitly.
As the likelihood grows that Republicans could win the special election in Massachusetts, it’s worth thinking again about alternatives for health care reform in case that happens. I see three, in descending order of preference:
1. Finish up the House-Senate negotiations quickly and hold a vote before Scott Brown is seated. Republicans will scream, but how could they scream any louder? It’s a process argument of murky merits that will be long forgotten by November.
Senator Tom Harkin has been toying with the idea too.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate health committee, disputed Frank’s prediction [that health reform would die if Coakley lost], saying Democrats would pass a bill.
‘Well, those are kind of apocalyptic terms. I still think there is a wellspring of support in this country for doing something about health care because people are losing their health care every day, thousands every day. All these things are out there, so the momentum is still there for getting a health care bill.”
Cramming HCR through Congress in this way may not strictly be unprecedented. Surely somewhere in the annals of Congress there must be another case of a bill that is one vote short of passage – where a special election is fought exactly on that bill – where proponents lose – and where they execute a parliamentary maneuver to enact the bill anyway.
But I’d be astonished if anybody had ever before tried to pass a law of this magnitude in a way that so blatantly tramples on election results.
I’d be astonished if it works this time either. After all, if Brown loses, panic will grip the Democratic senators. Does Blanche Lincoln want to gamble her future that her voters will forget by November that the most important domestic legislation in a generation was passed in this way? And the others on the ballot in 2010?