House Democratic leaders emerged from a Tuesday meeting confident that health care reform will not be derailed by a potential GOP win in Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat — an outcome that would strip the Senate Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority.
“Whatever happens in Massachusetts, we will have quality, affordable health care for all Americans and it will be soon,— Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters after the session.
Several Democrats, including Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), have linked the fate of health care legislation to the Massachusetts special election. Republican state Sen. Scott Brown was surging against Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) heading into today’s vote.
Pelosi brushed off questions about the House not having the votes to pass a standalone Senate health care bill — an option that has been floated — and said the White House has not asked House Democratic leaders to prepare for that in the event that the Senate loses its 60-seat majority. House Democrats, particularly liberals, have bristled at that idea since many feel they have already made too many concessions in the run-up to passing the House bill.
But top Democrats insisted that negotiations on a final health care package are continuing as planned and pointed to the fact that they have already sent key revenue and investment provisions to the Congressional Budget Office for review.
“What we’re doing now is we’re continuing the same process we started last week,— said Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.). The Massachusetts election “will come and go We still have to get this done so then we can talk to the Caucus about what we might or might not do, depending on what happens [in the election]. But I’m not going to engage in that speculation at this stage.—
House Democrats will head into a Caucus meeting later this evening to weigh in on health care talks and the list of outstanding issues, including tax provisions and language relating to restrictions on abortion.
Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) downplayed any negative impact that a GOP victory in Massachusetts would have on health care reform. But she acknowledged that it would have an effect on President Barack Obama’s broader legislative agenda.
“I think it would be hard to say that it would not. It might make some Democrats sit up and take notice,— Slaughter said.