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Brown's election clouds healthcare's fate

Jan. 20, 2010 at 8:52 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts puts healthcare reform at risk, as House Democrats indicate they aren't inclined to move fast on the Senate version.

Scott Brown, a Republican state senator who has spoken against both the House and Senate healthcare bills, defeated Democratic candidate Martha Coakley in Tuesday's special election for a successor to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

After a meeting of House Democratic leaders Tuesday night, key lawmakers said they were reviewing their choices, but said the possibility of approving the Senate plan and sending it to President Barack Obama was fading fast as an option, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a party campaign strategist, acknowledged voter suspicion about the emerging healthcare legislation played a role in the outcome of the Massachusetts race, along with the economy and local issues.

"Healthcare was also part of the debate and the people of Massachusetts were right to be upset about provisions in the Senate bill," Van Hollen said, referring to deals cut in the upper chamber to win 60 votes to pass the bill.

Democrats now must decide whether to turn their backs on the healthcare fight, something few lawmakers said they want to consider, or possibly cobble together a scaled-back measure and use procedural rules that would allow passage by a simple majority in the Senate, the Times said.

Senate leaders said Brown would be sworn in as soon as he could present his election certification documents. When he takes office, Democrats will no longer have the 60 votes needed to blunt a Republican filibuster of the legislation.

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