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  In wake of Brown win, health reform obstacles mount  

Media reports and analyses are describing Scott Brown's upset win in the Massachusetts Senate race as a very serious blow to the President's healthcare reform agenda. The healthcare push, the AP (1/20, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports, is "not dead," but was sent "to the emergency room in fragile condition." While Democratic leaders are exploring avenues to push a bill through, media reports cast those efforts very much as an uphill battle. So much so that the New York Times (1/20, A13, Hulse) reports that "House Democrats appeared to rule out the idea of quickly approving a Senate-passed healthcare measure and sending it to President Obama." In fact, DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) took a clear shot at the Senate measure last night, saying, "Healthcare was also part of the debate, and the people of Massachusetts were right to be upset about provisions in the Senate bill like the Nebraska purchase and other special deals." The Washington Post (1/20, Murray, Montgomery) likewise, reports that "the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress spent Tuesday searching for ways to keep their hard-fought healthcare overhaul alive," but "no workable Plan B emerged."


        The Democratic stance moving forward may have been affected by statements from a number of Democrats who are expressing misgivings about the options put forth so far. USA Today (1/20, Kiely, Fritze) notes that "Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank (D), a strong supporter of the healthcare legislation, said Brown's victory means Congress will have to 'start over on healthcare.' He said he will vote against any bill rushed to the floor before Brown can be sworn in."


        Roll Call (1/20, Pierce, subscription required) reports that "many House Democrats dismissed the suggestion" of adopting the Senate bill "after a Caucus meeting Tuesday evening." Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) told reporters, "If it comes down to that Senate bill or nothing, I think we're going to end up with nothing. I don't hear a lot support on our side for that bill."


        In another possible area of contention, were the House to vote on the Senate bill, the Washington Times (1/20, Haberkorn) reports that "Rep. Ahn 'Joseph' Cao of Louisiana, the only Republican to vote for the bill in November, won't support it again if the House's strict abortion restrictions are not preserved, his spokeswoman said Tuesday." Cao's "defection would...slice Democrats' vote margin even further. The health bill passed 220-215, just two more than the 218 required for passage."


        The Washington Post (1/20, Murray, Montgomery) quotes Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) after the election saying, "It's a serious problem, and it's probably back to the drawing board on healthcare, which is unfortunate, because everybody agrees we have to do something about healthcare."


        The Wall Street Journal (1/20, Adamy, Bendavid, subscription required) quotes GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), sometimes mentioned as a swing Republican vote, saying of the Senate bill, "People in my state, Massachusetts, and elsewhere were appalled at the process by which the bill was negotiated behind closed doors, it had special deals inserted to win votes and was rammed through the Senate with only limited debate. ... If this bill is pushed through despite the message sent from Massachusetts, I believe it will spur a tremendous backlash."


        Snowe called a possible 60th Senate health reform vote. CQ HealthBeat (1/20, Reichard, subscription required) reports on the possibility of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voting for a final healthcare reform bill. Sen. Snowe "has worked long and hard on healthcare overhaul issues, and she cast a 'yes' vote on overhaul legislation in the Senate Finance Committee on grounds that the status quo is no longer tenable." On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "that President Obama is pursuing Snowe's vote to get the measure across the finish line. 'The president continues to work hard' toward that end, Gibbs said." According to CQ, Democrats "seem likely to keep pursuing Snowe, however futile the effort might be."

Poll finds 33% support, 46% oppose Obama health reform.

NBC Nightly News (1/19, story 4, 2:40, Williams) reported that in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, "just 33% believe" the President's healthcare reform plan is "a good idea, but 46% believe it's a bad idea. A number that's nearly doubled" since the plan was unveiled last spring. The Wall Street Journal (1/20, Meckler, subscription required), in an article titled, "Americans Are Worried Congress Will Make A Bad Healthcare System Even Worse," also reports on the poll's healthcare findings.




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