Republican victory in Mass. threatens health reform plans

After watching many months of the health reform vehicle hugging twisty roads over steep mountains, nearly tipping over the edge on countless occasions, one could be forgiven for thinking that we'd passed the most dramatic part of the process. Now, with the election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's old seat, everything may have changed overnight. At this point, now what?

The simple, factual conclusion is that Senate Democrats will no longer have the 60 votes they needed to blow past a potential Republican filibuster. It's possible Senate Dems will be able to use special Senate procedural rules that would avoid the need for 60 votes and allow them to push through a scaled-back measure.

Another solution--having House Democrats approve the existing measure--seems much shakier. House Democrats seem queasy, at best, at the notion of approving the existing Senate-passed healthcare measure and whipping it onto President Obama's desk.

Yet another possibility--that of attempting to stall Brown's swearing-in as senator--seems to be dead in the water as well. Democrats had discussed the possibility of forcing through a final healthcare bill while Democratic Sen. Paul Kirk remained in the Senate, but now that seems unlikely, with even President Obama addressing Brown as "Senator Brown."

To learn more about this new power struggle:
- read this piece from the New York Times

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