Top Democratic operative John Podesta expressed cautious optimism on Saturday that the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, would defeat Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday’s special election, despite running what he called a “lackluster campaign.”
“I’m glad the election is this Tuesday instead of last Tuesday,” Podesta told The Daily Caller. “Had the election been last Tuesday there would have been a lot higher chance she would have lost.”
Podesta served as White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton and now runs the Center for American Progress, which has become a powerhouse liberal Democratic think tank over the last few years.
He said that the flood of national Democratic resources into the state, to run television ads and organize get out the vote efforts, would likely combine with President Obama’s visit to the state Sunday afternoon to give Coakley the edge.
“It’s highly likely the president’s visit will push her over the finish line,” Podesta said.
Podesta also said there are “a number of paths,” including reconciliation, to getting the president’s health-care reform bill through the Congress even if Democrats lose their Senate seat in Massachusetts on Tuesday.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about that,” he said.
Podesta expressed confidence that health-care reform will pass, no matter what the outcome is in Tuesday’s special election to fill Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat. He declined to elaborate on how else, besides reconciliation, Democrats could get the bill to the president’s desk.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that reconciliation “is an option,” in an interview with Bloomberg Television that aired on Saturday.
The reconciliation process requires only 51 votes in the Senate versus the 60 that the Democrats would have if they retained Kennedy’s seat. However, there are serious questions about whether Democrats would be able to successfully use the process.
“What everybody’s forgetting is that a lot of the provisions that people in the House required to have in the bill will fall, and therefore their support would fall,” said a senior Republican Senate aide.
Reconciliation was created to allow the Senate to pass measures related to federal spending or savings without a 60-vote majority. But the process is only supposed to be used for changes strictly pertaining to budgetary measures.
Democrats could try to start over with a new bill through reconciliation, going back and beginning again with a new bill in the Senate Finance Committee. But they would likely be unable to mandate coverage or forbid insurance companies from rejecting customers with preexisting conditions, the GOP aide said.
Alternatively, if Democrats tried to pass the Senate version of the bill as it stands, in the hopes of making changes later through reconciliation, they would again face major hurdles in getting enough votes. And reconciliation, since it is limited to matters dealing with spending and savings in the budget, is unlikely to enable them to make significant policy changes.