House of Representatives Democratic leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday the U.S. Senate's version of healthcare reform was "clearly" better than nothing and the overhaul could pass the U.S. Congress within 15 days.
Fifteen days is presumably less time than it will take Scott Brown to be seated if he actually wins the Massachusetts Senate race. The “rush” strategy would require Democrats to rush to finish all negotiations on health care and pass the new merged bill through both chambers in the small window of time before the Secretary of State of Massachusetts could officially certify Scott Brown, so (should be be elected) he can be seated.
Trying to execute this rush strategy would be sure to cause a huge partisan firestorm, and it is not clear right now if Obama could convince all the conservative Democrats in the Senate to go along with it. I'm sure the Republicans would accuse Democrats of “cheating” and playing dirty.
From my perspective, the potential political and popular blow-back from using the rush strategy would be equal to blow-back from using other hardball strategies like reconciliation or even the nuclear option to get around the filibuster. Of course, the rush strategy would have all the pain of playing hardball, but lack any of the gain. At least, with reconciliation, Democrats have a chance to win back some of their lost supporters by reviving very popular provisions like the public option and/or Medicare buy-in.
At this point, a vote on health care reform is hard enough to sell to voters. Using the rush strategy to pass it will probably not make that sales job any easier. It seems if Democrats are prepared to take the hit for playing hardball politics to pass reform, the best bet is the reconciliation "sidecar" strategy. First, it would allow Democrats to re-insert popular ideas like the public option and potentially do even more to fix problems like affordability. Second, it could help protect some vulnerable Senate Democrats. Using reconciliation for a side car bill will allow senators like Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson to vote against the measure, and legitimately distance themselves from the final health care reform product.