The Blog

The Health Care Bill Is Dead

And other repercussions of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts.

12:30 AM, Jan 20, 2010 • By FRED BARNES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The impact of Republican Scott Brown’s capture of the Massachusetts Senate seat held for decades by Teddy Kennedy will be both immediate and powerful.  It’s safe to say no single Senate election in recent memory is as important as this one.

The Health Care Bill Is Dead

Here are a few of the repercussions:

1) President Obama is weakened.  For the third time in three months, he couldn’t deliver for a Democratic candidate.  Last November, he abetted the defeat of Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia governor’s race and failed to prevent Democrat Jon Corzine’s ouster as New Jersey governor.  Now in Massachusetts, his appearance for Martha Coakley was a bust.  A president who can’t aid his party’s candidates loses influence with Congress and inside his party.

That’s not all.  Obama’s agenda, chiefly health care, took a beating in Massachusetts.  In fact, it was the chief cause of Coakley’s defeat.  Without the intrusion of national politics, she would have defeated Brown.  But Obama and Democrats in Washington have created a hostile environment  for Democratic candidates even in liberal and Democrat-dominated Massachusetts.  So there’s a double whammy for Obama:  he can’t help if he personally shows up to campaign on behalf of Democrats and his policies are ruining their chances of being elected.

2) Independents are lost to Democrats, at least for the time being.  In 2006 and 2008, they fled Republicans in large numbers and facilitated Democratic triumphs for the House, Senate, and White House.  Now they’ve staged a mass migration to the Republican camp.  In Massachusetts, where they make up half the electorate, they overwhelmingly voted for Brown.  This followed the 2-to-1 advantage they gave to Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey last year.

Democrats may win them back, but not if they stick with the liberal policies--especially the unbridled spending and $1 trillion deficits--of Obama and congressional Democrats.  These are killer issues among independents.  Perhaps it will take another unpopular Republican administration in Washington to push them toward Democrats again.  And that is years away.

3) In the midterm election in November, Republicans are poised to win 25 or so House seats. But it will take a net of 40 to take control the House.  For this, they need more open Democratic seats, which are easier to win than incumbent-held seats. Brown’s victory in Massachusetts is a good bet to scare many more Democrats into retirement.

If a Republican can win in Massachusetts, why not in Missouri or Pennsylvania or a solidly Democratic state like New York?  Last week, Democrat Vic Snyder of Arkansas announced his retirement, citing the political climate as the reason. It’s an anti-Democratic climate.

4) Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is the new king of Capitol Hill.  His skill in keeping 40 Republicans united against Democratic health care reform was masterful, and it wasn’t easy.  A number of Republican senators are drawn to co-sponsoring or at least voting for Democratic bills.  Not this time.

By keeping his minority together, McConnell put enormous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had to keep every Democrat in line to gain the 60 votes need to halt a Republican filibuster.  On health care, it meant he had to make unseemly deals with a host of senators, most egregiously in the Medicaid payoff to Nebraska to appease Senator Ben Nelson. Reid got the votes, but the deals were political poison.

5) Oh, yes. The health care bill, ObamaCare, is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection. Brown ran to be the 41st vote for filibuster and now he is just that. Democrats have talked up clever strategies to pass the bill in the Senate despite Brown, but they won’t fly.  It’s one thing for ObamaCare to be rejected by the American public in poll after poll.  But it becomes a matter of considerably greater political magnitude when ObamaCare causes the loss of a Senate race in the blue state of Massachusetts.

Then there’s the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists some version of ObamaCare will be approved and soon. She’s not kidding. She’s simply wrong. At best, she has the minimum 218 votes for passage. After the Massachusetts fiasco, however, there’s sure to be erosion. How many Democrats in Republican-leaning districts want to vote for ObamaCare, post-Massachusetts? Not many.

Pelosi met with House Democrats yesterday to tell them how the negotiations on a compromise health care bill between the House and Senate were going. As she spoke, one Democratic member whispered to another, “It’s like talking about your date on Friday, but the date’s in the emergency room.” ObamaCare went into the emergency room in Massachusetts and didn’t make it out alive.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers