House Democrats Anxiously Watching Massachusetts Senate Vote

Posted January 15, 2010 at 4:40pm

Anxiety is setting in among House Democrats as they weigh the prospect of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) not being able to fend off state Sen. Scott Brown (R) in Tuesday’s election to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Several Democrats said Friday that they felt confident Coakley would pull off a win, despite the fact that Brown had a 4-point lead, according to a Suffolk University survey released Friday. Still, many conceded that tensions are high over the prospect of Senate Democrats losing their razor-thin fillibuster-proof majority at a time when they need it the most: to pass sweeping health care reform legislation.

“There is a general anxiety in the Democratic Caucus. We do not want to lose that seat,— Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) said. “We want to be sure that a Democrat wins that seat so we’ll have another vote for health care.—

“It’s very concerning,— Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said. “It would be terrible if that seat went Republican … because you’ve got a Republican Party today that is actually determined to let nothing pass, regardless of the merits. … If we don’t have 60 votes to stop every filibuster, nothing will happen on anything.—

Nadler said House Democrats did not discuss the Massachusetts race during this week’s annual issues conference. The only time the issue came up was when former President Bill Clinton, who spoke to the group Friday, had to leave to go campaign for Coakley.

Following the meeting, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed a suggestion that the election is forcing Democratic negotiators to rush a final deal on health care. “That has nothing to do with that,— she said. “We were on this course of action anyway. … The American people cannot wait any longer.—

Some lawmakers seemed unfazed by the prospect of Democrats losing their hold on the Senate.

“You win some, you lose some. It depends on the candidates in the races. Hopefully, Coakley will win,— Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said.

Others expressed confidence that Massachusetts would choose Coakley to fill the seat left open by Kennedy, who for years was known as the “liberal lion— of the Senate.

“I don’t know that worried is the word,— Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said. “Certainly I want to have her win. I’m not really worried because I think she’s going to win. … I think health care is going to pass one way or another.—

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) predicted that Coakley would win, although he said “it’s not going to be any Kennedy sweep.— He described it as “inconceivable— that Massachusetts voters would elect a Republican to the Senate.

“People have to decide whether they want more of what they had in the last eight years. To hand control back to these guys, to simply say we want more George Bush — I don’t think people in Massachusetts are that stupid,— McDermott said.