If the Democrats were going to recover from Scott Brown’s victory and finish passing health-care reform, they would have needed more cohesion and fortitude than ever before, and we know that hasn’t been their forte. Well, perhaps not surprisingly then, pretty much the exact opposite has happened. While White House advisers and congressional leadership try to hold the lines with soothing, confident messages like “We will get the job done” and “We should finish health care,” the rest of the Democratic caucus has begun wandering off in every which direction.
Barney Frank expressed hope for a new compromise bill with Republican support. Bill Delhunt and John Yarmuth called for the legislation to be broken up and passed in pieces. Others congressmen, like Bart Stupak and Brad Ellsworth, simply stated that there’s no willingness in the House to pass the Senate’s bill as is. Anthony Weiner suggested passing a pared-down health-care reform bill as part of a jobs bill. Senators Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill put the kibosh on trying to quickly make changes to the Senate bill before Scott Brown is seated, something that wasn’t likely anyway but makes them look honorable for opposing.
So what will the Democrats do next? Who knows! Everyone is spooked. No options look like total political winners. No path for passing the current legislation is immediately evident. In the next few days, the White House and congressional leaders will do a lot of soul-searching, chin stroking, and brainstorming to figure out which difficult, probably unappealing step to take next. Maybe some praying, too.