The Guest Blog

Losey: Brown's Victory Forces A New Dem Fight for ObamaCare

Scott Brown

Scott Brown is the winner of Massachusetts Senate Raceand, now, the first Republican senator from that state since 1972.

He defeated his democratic opponent, Attorney General Martha Coakley, by a comfy margin.

More than half of the state’s voters turned up.

This Republican victory in an infamously blue state means democrats no longer have a filibuster proof majority. This makes the future of Obama’s healthcare plan very uncertain. Indeed, the election has received an unprecedented amount of national coverage because of this. In- and out-of-state sponsors spent millions of dollars on advertising for both parties.

Obama was even in Massachusetts over the weekend campaigning for Coakley. It was reported shortly after that advisors to the President were less than optimistic about her chances. Many commenters on a CNN blog about the subject thought it was just a ploy to get Republican voters to think Brown’s victory was a sure thing so they’d sleep in and skip the polls. Both parties have criticized Coakley’s campaign strategy. Democrats felt she wasn’t being aggressive enough while Republicans frowned upon the presidential endorsement.

Scott Brown played up his regular guy image for the election. Brown, who drives a pick-up truck and (unlike his opponent) did plenty of campaigning outside sports arenas, said he wanted to move past partisan gridlock. In response to questions over whether he’s a conservative, moderate, or liberal Republican, Brown has responded that he is a “Scott Brown Republican.” Some of the primary issues he focused on in his campaign were lower taxes and harsher punishment for terrorists. Generally speaking, he’s avoided social issues in favor of economic ones. It’s a strategy commonly used by the state’s few Republicans to draw from the considerably larger pool of independent voters (50 percent of all registered voters in the state aren’t affiliated with a major party).

Considering the tradition-defying results, many people are viewing the election as a message from voters. Plenty of voters are on record, as well, directly saying so upon exiting the polls. A recent survey performed by the Democratic Corps found that only one-third of voters support Obama’s national healthcare plan. It’s likely that frustration from voters over Obama’s policy contributed to Brown’s win. Another key component of Brown’s campaign was, after all, using discontent for the liberal agenda to his advantage.

That “liberal agenda” voters seem upset with includes the healthcare debacle. Despite all this, there are still a few alternative courses of actions that democrats might take in a last attempt to get healthcare reform passed…

They may try reaching out to a Republican for the 60th vote. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is the most likely candidate. Despite her notoriety for deciding close votes and ending filibusters, few Democrats are optimistic about this route. She’s been supportive of the Obama administration overall, but has made no secret of her reservations over some legislation issues in the healthcare bill. Also notable, Sen. Scott Brown has voted no on several bills attempting to expand MassHealth (the state’s near universal healthcare program) benefits and no on a bill to amend the constitution to call for universal healthcare. With his voting record and statements made on the campaign trail, it’s unlikely he’ll vote yes on any future bill designed to expand healthcare coverage.

Another option is to execute voting over the bill before Brown begins serving. This will, however, lead to a public relations nightmare for the White House. If Obama and crew choose this route, they will need to win public opinion back by November in order to prevent midterm elections from being a repeat of the special Massachusetts Senate race.

The easiest option, however, would be to convince House Democrats to approve the Senate healthcare bill. Yet so few members favor the bill that no action is more likely. Even those who do support it do so only with the hope of being able to amend it after a pass.

"It’s likely that frustration from voters over Obama’s policy contributed to Brown’s win....."
                                                                           -Bill Losey

Midterm elections are also an important thing for both parties to remember. Not passing a healthcare bill is likely to reflect poorly on the president and the Democratic house majority; since it’s been such a key part in his agenda, failure to materialize results may make voters think he failed to accomplish anything even with control of the house. Coupled with the fact that most voters aren’t enthusiastic about the plan to begin with, midterms are shaping up to be bad news for Democrats.

Furthermore, public favor of incumbent Republican House members is on the rise. This statistic has seen a three-point increase since August. Favor for Democrat House incumbents is dovetailing; the number of voters who have a “warm” feeling for their Democratic incumbent has slipped by seven points over the same period. Again, this might be a signifier of a big shake-up in the House and Senate come November.

Currently voters are evenly split over whether they think the president is performing well or poorly. Although the majority, 58 percent, has switched over to seeing him as “on the wrong track.” For Republicans, this malcontent is proving to be a unifying force in an increasingly divided party. Many are hoping that the upcoming senate election for Obama’s former seat in traditionally democratic Illinois will be another upset for the Democratic Party.

Voters are also expressing concern over the economy’s slow recovery and increased taxes. As the Republican Party is well known for its tax-cuts, this might be another contributing factor to change.

In their own attempts to sway independent voters and liberal Republicans, Democrats have tried associating Republican candidates with radical conservative figures such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. This strategy has been unsuccessful.

Apart from healthcare, other upcoming issues the Senate will vote on include the chairman of the Federal Reserve and civil unions. Regarding civil unions: a bill to legalize civil unions between same sex partners has already passed house approval and should return to the Senate for another vote on Friday. It is uncertain whether Brown will be in Washington by then, but he will likely vote yes if he is since he’s anti-gay-marriage and pro-civil-unions.

Midterm elections for the Senate will take place November 2. Currently, there are 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans, and two left-leaning independents. Stay tuned!

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Bill Losey, CFP®, America's Retirement Strategist®, coaches women and couples nationwide with their retirement planning and investment portfolios.  Bill is the author of Retire in a Weekend! The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Making Work Optional and he also publishes Retirement Intelligence®, a free weekly award-winning newsletter.
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