Breaking news out of Massachusetts: In Tuesday’s special election held to fill the Senate seat of the late Edward Kennedy, Republican Scott Brown has defeated Democrat Martha Coakley by a decisive margin (51.9%-47.1%). I bring this to your attention because of how it will impact the balance of power in the United States Senate. Last month, Harry Reid’s version of the health care bill eventually passed the Senate along party lines, with the Democratic caucus barely retaining the requisite 60 votes it needed to avoid a Republican filibuster. Now, it looks as if the Democrats will have to invoke the help of at least one moderate Republican (perhaps Olympia Snowe, R-ME) if they want to pass the bill. But for that to happen, the Democratic caucus needs to hold together, which is certainly not a given. The Conference Committee still needs to account for the differences between the House and Senate versions, and depending on what the final attempt looks like, some Democrats in the Senate might decide to vote against it.
A few weeks ago, Martha Coakely was considered a shoe-in for the seat. But Brown ran a successful campaign that tapped into the discontent of independent voters over Obama’s legislative agenda. Consider this campaign ad that brags about how many miles he has put on his truck. (Admittedly, its doing pretty well for nearly 200,000 miles.)
I see a few ironies in this development. Consider that Edward Kennedy, for all of his legislative accomplishments, was particularly well known for his stance on expanding health care. If the partisan portrayal of Brown is accurate, he now appears poised to join the Republican caucus on this issue without much deliberation. Also, Massachusetts currently has mandatory health care that is run by the state government, meaning that Brown’s ascendancy to the US Senate might have a greater impact on the rest of the country than on Brown’s constituents. In any event, one doesn’t need my commentary to see that this is a disaster for the Obama administration.
MiddBlog wants to know: What is your reaction to Tuesday’s special election?