Scott Brown won today’s special Senate election in Massachusetts. It’s too soon to predict what this means, exactly, for health-care reform and a host of other issues. But here are some safe bets:
1. Health-Care Reform, of Course, Is in Big Trouble: The ongoing process of reconciliation between the passed House and Senate bills is now in question. Without a filibuster-proof 60-member Senate majority, it will be hard to get any bill through that institution again. The alternative, coaxing the House into approving the Senate bill already passed, faces major hurdles: Namely, pro-life or wavering Democrats who don’t like certain elements of the Senate bill, and will be even more rattled after seeing a supposedly liberal state reject a Democratic successor to Ted Kennedy, the champion of health-care reform, in favor of a Republican.
2. Olympia Snowe Will Become Mighty Again: If the strategy of getting House Democrats to accept the Senate version of the health-care bill doesn’t work — and since the House only passed its version of health-care reform by 220 to 215 votes, it very likely won’t — Harry Reid will have to pull another Ben Nelson. That is, kowtow to the every need and desire of the one member of the Senate with the most leverage. That person is independent-minded Maine senator Olympia Snowe, who was the only Republican member of Max Baucus’s finance committee to vote a version of the bill onto the floor. Baucus abandoned her when he and Reid saw they could get all 60 Democrats in line, but Snowe’s main sticking point, a public option, is not in the Senate version of the bill.
3. Senate Democrats May Stall: In an effort to avoid either of the above scenarios, there’s always the chance that the (still) Democrat-led Senate could avoid seating Scott Brown for a good two weeks. That’s about how long it takes to certify an election, which is officially required before anyone can be sworn in. This tactic might give the reconciliation process enough time to complete itself, but will certainly leave Republicans howling. Why? Because Ted Kennedy himself was sworn in the day after he won his first election to that very seat. As Talking Points Memo points out, the current situation is subtly different. But that subtlety would no doubt be lost in the controversy this tactic would no doubt stir up.
4. Democrats Will Point Fingers: In the couple of weeks leading up to the special election, as Coakley’s numbers crashed, desperate finger-pointing began among Dems. Coakley advisers blamed the national party. Party officials blamed what they saw as a less-than-rigorous campaign attitude. Rahm Emanuel is said to have blamed Coakley’s team. We blamed Ted Kennedy himself. And all the while, a gleeful GOP tried to make the election a referendum on Obama’s policies, and liberalism itself. It’s this last thing that is going to make the White House — and both Senate and House Democratic reelection committees — to try to isolate the race as an inept, one-off flub.
5. Harold Ford Jr. Will Indeed Run for the New York Senate: A Ford insider told the Post that “if Coakley loses, or wins by less than five, it increases the likelihood that he gets in.” The logic being that with Ted Kennedy’s seat being lost to a Republican in the bluest of blue states, no Democratic incumbent is truly safe in the fall — even against a fellow Dem. Of course, it goes without saying, that actual Republican foes to Democratic incumbents will feel extremely emboldened.
6. The Globe Will Get Warmer: As Matthew Yglesias points out, passing cap-and-trade in 2010 looked dicey as it was. With another GOP vote in the Senate, the likelihood of passing it gets even slimmer. (Yglesias also observes that after an initial couple of weeks of bad press, Obama will get a subtle boost because “It’s much easier to complain about ‘Republican obstructionism’ if Republicans have the 41 votes they need to obstruct.”)
7. The Tea Party Will Roar: The symbolism of Coakley’s defeat can’t possibly be lost on the scattered pockets of extremely vocal Tea Partiers across the country. They will see this as a victory for the forces opposed to Obama’s social-fascist agenda, and proof that those forces aren’t just made up of ignorant white people from the South and Midwest. In fact, the Tea Party PAC contributed to the Brown campaign in a more targeted and organized fashion than we’ve seen thus far. Imagine the hand-scrawled posters now: “The Tea Party Has Returned to Massachusetts!”