As recent polling indicates, chances are pretty favorable that Massachusetts Dems will do something considered nigh-impossible just weeks ago: lose Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat to a Republican, Scott Brown.
The reasons why are too numerous to mention in full, but much local resentment aimed at Brown’s fading opponent, Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley, orbits a sense of entitlement many Bay Staters feel local Dems have enjoyed for too long under the Kennedys. Plus, Brown—while running on a vocal anti-tax platform—is telling much of the electorate (including many interested Democrats) much of what they want to hear.
As such, if this MA Senate seat indeed swings red, it will immediately imperil Congressional Dems’ campaign for healthcare reform – as Scott’s election will enable the GOP to filibuster the final bill, killing it within inches of final passage. This is a bad, bad scenario for Barack Obama, and would signify a crushing political defeat from a rival party which has (no pun) very liberally used the filibuster against almost 100 Democratic initiatives (a record) in the past year alone.
Yet in the event of Brown’s victory, various tactics can be used by Dems to delay seating him until a final healthcare bill is signed off by Obama. But to do so, imperils their odds to retain other seats in November even further if Democrats are seen as usurping the will of the people.
What this all comes down to, however, is in that finest maneuver of American politics: the pissing contest.
The GOP wants to block health reform—never mind they did next to dick on the issue when they controlled Congress under GW Bush—and will do anything to kill it in the name of partisanship. The Dems, on the other hand, find themselves in a nightmarish box – all due to current Congressional rules making 60 votes needed to stop any filibuster. Never mind that even with Brown seated as the new Junior Senator from Massachusetts, the final vote would be 59 for, and only 41 against.
In this most dysfunctional of governmental bodies, the US Senate, the majority does not rule.
Whatever the case, this next Tuesday—Election Day in Massachusetts—will reveal all, but the White House’s decision to send Obama to Boston this weekend to stump for Martha Coakley (a huge tactical mistake) does not lend one confidence that the hard work secured by Congressional Dems on healthcare since last summer will not be dashed by the election of one person.