I refrained from offering an opinion about the political reprecussions Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy's passing would have on health care reform for most of the day out of deference to his memory. Now I will offer up how I see it probably playing out in a best case scenario type of deal.
I get that a lot of people are hoping that Massachusetts changes their rules to allow Governor Deval Patrick to quickly name a place holder for Senator Kennedy's seat in case they need that 60th vote for cloture. But honestly I think that the truth is having that seat open helps the cause of health care reform.
The truth is I am not at all confident that even if we have 60 bodies in the Senate that claim to be Democrats that all of them will vote for cloture on the kind of a health care reform bill than any self respecting liberal or progressive would find acceptable. And its a pipe dream to believe that some how because Senator Kennedy passed that a few Republicans will find their honor and sanity. So THE avenue for getting a health care reform bill through Congress this year that actually represents change and reform is going to have to come through the reconcilliation process in the Senate.
Now the one thing that the media has been really terrible at is being realistic and honest about the Democrats' so called "Super Majority" in the Senate anyway. With Senator Kennedy having terminal cancer and Senator Robert Byrd being very old and, of late, sickly, it was always a Super Majority only on paper. For that reason we would have always needed at least one or two Republicans to vote for cloture and that's not even taking into account needing to do the humongous job of cat herding every single one of the Democrats to do the same. In short it never looked good for that.
However now the prospect of a Super Majority is gone and the realization is that cloture might as well be 10 votes away as it is one with the understanding that that one vote will have to come from a Republican bucking their whole party. In essence even if we could buy off one or two Republicans to vote for cloture on a health care bill it would probably be at such a high cost for our side that the bill would suck and such a high cost for them personally that they would HAVE to change parties. I don't see that happening.
But what I can see now is Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin being able to make a much stronger case to the Democratic caucus for why we should and must use reconciliation to get this done. And at this point I would say that the media is at a point where they would also be inclined to keep making the case that reconcilliation is the way to go since there is no 60th vote for cloture. Bigger than that if Republicans continue to be obstinant about not even attempting to work with Democrats on the bill I think this is a moment in time where the media will finally call them out in the wake of Ted Kennedy's passing.
Now understand that I grieve the loss of Senator Kennedy as I know most of you do too. But what I am talking about right now is a political reality that is out there for us to take advantage of. I am pretty sure that should we were to use Senator Kennedy's death as a lever to help push through health care reform which covers almost all Americans that he himself will be up in Heaven smiling down on our efforts. I, as much as anyone else, wish he could have lived long enough to see health care reform come to fruition during his lifetime, but for him to pass and health care reform to fail I think should not and will not be acceptable.
Its time to strike while the iron is hot and use all means available to get it done. And as it stands right now reconcilliation is the way to go. No one will remember the process years from now when everyone has health care, all they will remember is the result.