Chris Bowers is right – the process with moving the health care bill can be fouled by the results of the Massachusetts Senate special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. Bowers predicts another 14-18 days before a bill is signed at best and since the MA election is on January 19th, it is hard to imagine the winner not be seated prior to the completion of a health care bill in the Senate.
There are three possible ways that this can play out.
If Democrats are not confident that both a bill can be completed prior to the seating of the winner of the Massachusetts election and that Martha Coakley will defeat Republican Scott Brown, the process could be sped up by the House taking up the Senate bill, as passed, and vote on it. That bill would then go to the President’s desk and would become law about as quickly as the House could pass it. The Senate would not have to take up the legislation again, but it would mean the House has to swallow a vastly inferior bill in the process.
The process can continue as it is — with the leaders of both chambers in negotiations with the White House — and maintain the same pace. This won’t really affect much if Coakley’s win is likely, something that has generally been confirmed by polling but is certainly a little close for comfort. If the pace is maintained, the MA special election will not influence the content of the bill, but will be determinative of whether or not a new piece of legislation passes the Senate.
Finally, if Coakley goes on to lose to Brown and the House does not pass the Senate bill as written, then it is highly unlikely that anything will again pass the Senate, at least without being written primarily by Collins or Snowe. This is the feared outcome of the Massachusetts special election really determining the outcome of this legislative fight.
It’s scary stuff and even more troubling that there’s the slightest chance that the election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat could result in dramatically altering health care legislation and even stop it from passing.