Nail-biter Mass. Senate race will influence reform outcome

It's down to the wire, and it's still not clear whether Senate Democratic candidate Martha Coakley or Republican candidate Scott Brown will take the seat vacated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The special election, which was too close to call as of this publication, could have a significant impact on the future of federal health reform. If Brown wins, Democrats could lose the 60th vote they've relied upon to stop a possible Republican filibuster designed to halt progress on the bill.

Hoping to stay on the offense, Democrats are already discussing a "plan B" under which they'd try and get House Democrats to adopt the bill approved by the Senate last month. Even if Brown wins, that might give Senate Dems enough time to get a revised bill to the president's desk. But Democratic leaders have said they're not comfortable with such a risky strategy.

On the other hand, some Democrats have already sounded taps for reform if Coakley doesn't pick up Kennedy's seat. On Friday, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told insider political newspaper Politico that if Republicans pick up Kennedy's seat, healthcare reform is dead.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this piece from the New York Times

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