Thinking About the Eminently Thinkable
posted at 9:08 pm on January 18, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
Paul Mirengoff at Power Line has been posting a blogseries on the possibility that Scott Brown might beat Martha “Chokely” Coakley in the special election to fill the Senate seat abruptly vacated by Ted Kennedy; Paul’s titles series “Thinking About the Unthinkable;” but to me, the possibility is very, very thinkable, hence my own variation. (Paul’s most recent entry is here.)
The Democrats certainly find that result “thinkable;” they’re thinking very hard about how to circumvent the expressed will of the voters. Brown is running on the firmly expressed intent to be “the 41st senator” to vote against cloture on the Senate version of ObamaCare; both sides agree that the race has turned into a referendum on that bill, so Brown’s pledge will become a mandate if he wins: He will not easily be able to back away from it, even if he wanted. (And there’s no evidence he wants to back away.)
So what (the Democrats wail) is to be done? From what I’ve read they’re discussing four distinct responses, only one of which is even slightly viable. Remember, we assume for sake of argument that Scott Brown wins the election; if he doesn’t, then everything returns to status quo ante.
- Get all the Democrats in both House and Senate — and they would need nearly every soul who voted for ObamaCare in the former and every Democrat without exception in the latter — to come to total agreement today or tomorrow and ram the votes through both chambers before the polls close on Tuesday. Considering how bitterly they have all been wrangling, this is unlikely at best.
Delay seating Brown until after the vote, however long that takes. There is, however, one slight flaw to this tactic: It won’t work.
As several folks have pointed out, the Republicans don’t need 41 votes to stop ObamaCare; the Democrats need 60 votes to move it.
It makes no difference how long “Massachusettes” takes to certify the election; that has no bearing on the vote. The only question is whether the current appointed occupant of that Senate seat, Paul Kirk, can continue to vote after the election… and the law seems fairly clear that he cannot, as Fred Barnes explains in the Weekly Standard.
Kirk’s appointment lasts “until election and qualification of the person duly elected to fill the vacancy;” since both Martha Coakley and Scott Brown meet all the qualifications to be a United States Senator, Kirk’s appointment would appear to lapse as soon as the election is over Tuesday night. Certification of the election results is not required; as of Tuesday night, when the polls close, the Democrats will have only 59 votes to move ObamaCare… and that’s one short.
Forget ObamaCare and all the “negotiation” between liberal Democrats and liberal Democrats; rework the entire bill from the start, but this time involve the Republicans. Pass those elements that both sides more or less agree upon, and enact truly bipartisan health-insurance reform that the American people can support.
- Only one alternative remains, at least that I can see: Get the House Democrats to vote for the Senate bill — Louisiana Purchase, Kornhusker Kickback, abortion, no public option, and last dirty jot and tittle of it. If the House votes through the Senate bill — with every section, paragraph, word, and punctuation mark intact — then it can go straight to Barack H. Obama for signature with no more votes in the Senate, and Scott Brown would be nullified… at least for this particular issue.
But why should the House Democrats enact the Senate bill? There are very substantive differences, as proven by the labyrinthian negotiations between Democrats in the two chambers.
Thought the threat of an ObamaCare failure might move some, quite a few liberals in the House — along with pro-life Democrats — might actually prefer no bill at all to the Senate version of ObamaCare. That way, House Democrats can run against the “obstructionist” GOP.
So what could Majority Leader Harry “Pinky” Reid (D-Caesar’s Palace, 70%) offer to the liberals and the moderates in the House to induce them to hold their noses and vote for the thoroughly corrupt mulligatawny stew that came out of the Senate negotiations?
The Senate Democrats seem to be promising that if the House Dems go along with the Senate version, then after the bill passes, the Senate will enact whatever revisions the House Democrats demand. In other words, both sides will participate in enacting a fraud, knowing they plan to renegotiate everything (still only among the Democrats!) as soon as the smoke settles. If Reid can scare the House Democrats sufficiently — half an oaf is better than nothing at all — the House kvetchers might be willing to put off their feud until after some version of ObamaCare becomes law.
But if that is the path they take, Republicans have a ready-made counterinsurgency strategy: Senate Republicans should announce they will filibuster any “renegotiated” ObamaCare provision, no matter what it is… unless it includes repeal of the insurance mandate and several other poison-pill demands.
What’s the point of that? Simply this: Let the House Democrats know that their Senate colleagues may promise corrective bills to ease the sting of passing the Senate version… but they will not be able to deliver. With Sen. Scott Brown denying Democrats the 60th vote for cloture, the Senate GOP can guarantee that the House Democrats won’t get any relief from the Senate bill: If the House passes “PinkeyCare,” that will be the regime they (and we) must live under.
(“Reconciliation” is no option; it only applies to bills or provisions whose primary purpose is to reduce the budget deficit. It cannot be used, for example, to reinstate a public option or to pass the Stupak Amendment. In my opinion, the Senate Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, would not enter into a conspiracy to subvert his office just to save Reid’s hide.)
I believe the pre-emptive announcement of a filibuster would thoroughly undercut any promise that Pinky Reid might make. Therefore, the House Democrats will refuse to go along with him… and the entire ObamaCare edifice might fall to pieces, like the statue of Ozymandias, king of kings, in the Shelly poem of that name.
Stand firm, Republicans; we may yet pull off the rescue of the century!
(Of course, the century is young; maybe we’ll stage an even greater rescue some years hence.)
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…