…even if Brown should prevail, there is a path — more than one, actually — for Democrats to lunge across the finish line and pass health-care reform. It might not be pretty, but after the last year of legislative ugliness, it won’t much matter.
The first path would be for the House — where they have this strange tradition in which the majority rules — to simply pass, as is, the bill that already passed the Senate. Obama would sign it, and the infrastructure of reform would be in place. Then [they THE HOUSE?] could attempt to correct some of the Senate bill’s weaknesses in the reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes (though it does limit which parts of the bill can be addressed).
The other path — and the preferable one, from a policy perspective — would be to get the bill done before Brown is sworn in. Keep in mind that the White House and congressional leaders are nearly done hammering out the differences between the two chambers’ bills. Though reports about what is in this version are sketchy, it looks to be a considerable improvement on the Senate bill. They have to get a score from the Congressional Budget Office, which takes a few days. Then depending on how the bill is offered in the Senate, a vote could come within a few days after that. In other words, no matter what happens in Massachusetts, if Democrats decide to move things through quickly, we could get a vote on health care within 10 days.
Let’s not forget that the American people elected a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic president who pledged to reform health care when he ran. Does one election in one state change that? Is a 60-40 advantage in the Senate a mandate for action but a 59-41 advantage a reason the Democrats should fold up their agenda? The 60-vote filibuster requirement isn’t an expression of popular will; it’s a quirk of Senate rules, and a profoundly anti-democratic one at that.