- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stung by the loss of a Senate supermajority, President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress searched for a way to salvage the health care overhaul, looking toward scaling down the bill or passing part of it through a complicated procedural process that can’t be filibustered.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he didn’t know how Democrats would proceed but, echoing Mr. Obama, ruled out ramming the measure through the chamber before seating Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, whose surprise victory on Tuesday sent shock waves across Capitol Hill and provided Republicans newfound leverage in Congress.

Mr. Obama insisted that health care reform isn’t dead, despite rumblings from a handful of Democrats on Capitol Hill anxious about the anger among Massachusetts’ typically solid-blue voters.

“We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people,” the president said in an interview with ABC News. “We know that we have to have some form of cost containment, because if we don’t, then our budgets are going to blow up. And we know that small businesses are going to need help.”

Republicans said Mr. Brown’s victory, after his pledge to vote against the health care bill, was a sign that Democrats should stop.

“I think we heard a large and resounding message yesterday in one of the most, if not arguably the most, liberal state in the America,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

When asked whether he thought Mr. Brown’s election would kill health care reform, he said, “I sure hope so.”

In Boston, Mr. Brown said voters sent a “very powerful message” against the backroom wheeling and dealing driven by special interests on Capitol Hill.

“Game’s over. Let’s get to work,” said Mr. Brown, who will be in Washington on Thursday.

On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders in both chambers weighed their options.

“There are many different things that we can do to move forward on health care, but we’re not making any of those decisions now,” Mr. Reid told reporters.

Several Democratic senators suggested that House Democrats swallow hard and accept the Senate’s bill as it is, eliminating the need for another vote in the Senate. But many, including Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, warned, “It’s not easy to tell the House to take the Senate bill without changes.”

House Democrats want to remove a provision by Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska that would have spared his state the costs of expanding Medicaid.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican who has been in regular contact with Mr. Obama, roundly criticized the Democrats’ pressure to pass their bill, but she would not rule out voting for reform legislation.

“I never say anything is dead, but clearly, I think they have to revisit the entire issue,” Mrs. Snowe said.

Story Continues →