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Does Scott Brown's election doom healthcare?

Massachusetts Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown
The great morning-after question is rippling through Washington like the aftershock of a major earthquake, exposing huge rifts within the Democratic Party. The question: Does Republican Scott Brown's stunning win of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts doom healthcare?

To many Democrats, the bill is a victim of simple math. All 435 members of the House and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection in November, a fact that makes them acutely tuned to shifts in public opinion. With Brown campaigning as -- and representing -- the 41st vote against healthcare in the Senate, they're not sure they want to risk their own political necks for a proposal that is spurring a huge voter backlash.

“I think you can make a pretty good argument that healthcare might be dead,” said New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, a fierce advocate of the public option. Another New York liberal, Democrat Chuck Schumer, thinks discontent among Independents will force Democrats to de-emphasize healthcare to focus on what matters to voters -- jobs. "Our focus must be on jobs, the economy and delivering for the middle class," he said.

But at the White House, strategists are inclined to read the math differently. The liberal  base is convinced that President Obama's mistake was to attempt to compromise with Republicans and that now's the time to return to his anti-establishment roots -- going after the health insurance companies, bashing the Wall Street bonus babies, becoming the fighting populist of campaign fame.

So despite Republican warnings that Massachusetts should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats, Obama will likely, as NPR's Juan Williams put it, "double down" on healthcare, using hard-ball Chicago tactics to muscle the bill to victory.

Or, as senior aide David Axelrod said on MSNBC. "It's not an option simply to walk away."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Reuters

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Comments () | Archives (11)

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Kill healthcare, or ram it through? The Dems are screwed either way.

Stuck between a Barack and a hard place.

LA readers,

Let's quickly set the record straight. MA is the only state with universal health coverage, enacted in 2005. Scott Brown voted in favor of this plan as a state senator.

His primary opposition to the plan in Washington is that it is inferior to the plan we have in place today in MA. And, since the Obama plan is partially modeled after the MA plan, he and others here in MA have noticed that now, five years later, there are a lot of issues and challenges with this plan, especially in the areas of duning and rising premiums.

Coakley was going to be a rubber stamp for Obama's plan. Give Brown credit for stepping up with a dissenting opinion.

Clearly a case of the Democrats betraying their base (workers and poor) to continue the agenda of the folks who really control both parties: the bosses, the banks, and Wall Street.

By clearly continuing the right-wing agenda of 1.) escalation of the murderous wars in the Middle East (that have killed millions), 2.) an unlimited bail out for Wall-Street and the banks while working people pay for it 3.) a health-care bill that is a giveaway to insurance companies while again making working people pay for it, Obama and the Democrats angered their base and demobilized their own voters.

In the short term, some voter might turn to the Republicans, but more and more are seeing that both parties work for the bosses and against the working-class. As someone who broke with Democrats after Bill Clinton showed his true colors in 93, I encourage everyone to stop buying into this two-party lie, and work for change where it has always happened historically:

in the streets and factories!


I think the democrats should back off and ask the republicans how they plan to cover the uninsured and at the same time reduce costs wothout the government being involved


Will this Mass. election kill Obamacare? We can only pray that it does.Independents in Mass. went 3 to 1 for Brown, e.g. against Obama and Obamacare. Let there be no mistake or spin - Obama is a lame duck and Democrats are running for the exits. This message is countrywide, local, and far bigger than Obama.

MA win is disheartening but understandable. Economy and jobs seems to be number one concern of Americans. I myself have been unemployed for one year.

Haiti is going to need help for a long time to come. Ask for a show of hands among the extended unemployed of those willing to give time (the one thing we find in abundance in our life without full-time jobs). Use our skills, continue to pay our unemployment insurance, cover our costs to travel and throw in health coverage while in Haiti thus letting us and the American people feel good about what we can offer. This would not only help our wounded self esteem but be of a greater help to the devastated souls of Haiti.

Talk about a win/win not to mention second hand effect of good P.R. that would be received well both nationally and internationally.

B. Day

The current version of the health care bill SUCKS. That's the technical term for legislation written in backroom deals and voted on with no chance for anyone to even read it. It should be scrapped. Keeping what we have is better than that bill.

That said, this country needs health care reform badly. The costs in terms of money and human suffering cannot be ignored for much longer.

Perhaps, the loss of the fillibuster proof supermajority in the Senate will motivate the Democrats to actually negotiate. I can't call the Republicans obstructionist for their refusal to vote for something they didn't participate in to any degree, let alone get time to read it before the vote.

I like President Obama's suggestion to address the major problems with a series of smaller, understandable and hopefully more fair bills.

B.O.'s health care "plan"(?) is nothing more than unworkable. Think anyone in Congress has actually READ the bill? No way! Why are we leaving a HUGE social net that is going to bankrupt this country to a bunch of political hacks in D.C.? Time for America to WAKE UP and wrench this country back from politicians who think they know better than the rest of us. Boy, the great one was right when he said he would prefer picking 100 names out of the Cambridge phone directory to lead us than all the elected mush we wind up with. May B.O. be a 1 term failure of a P. May the upcomming mid terms all go R.

Brown's election = death to Obamacare ? We do certainly expect so, demand so, and hope so.

What a biased and dishonest question ?How about ' Will Brown's election
result in a bipartisan reform of health insurance with a real focus on reducing
costs ? This is what Brown campaigned for.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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