Story by Chris Graham
Republican Scott Brown shocked the political world with his victory in a special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts Tuesday night, upsetting one-time heavy favorite Martha Coakley to win the seat that had been held by the late liberal scion Ted Kennedy for 47 years.
Maybe not shocking, but certainly attention-getting, was a statement from Virginia Democrat Jim Webb tonight that would seem to signal a coming siphoning of moderate Democratic support for ongoing efforts at health-care reform in Congress.
“In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health-care reform, but also on the openness and integrity of our government process,” Webb said in the statement. “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health-care legislation until Sen.-elect Brown is seated.”
The comment regarding suspending further votes comes on the heels of speculation that Democratic leaders might attempt to push reform legislation through for a vote before Brown can be seated. Democratic leaders have been insisting for weeks that they need to have 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to be able to pass health-care reform. Brown’s election gives Republicans 41 votes in the chamber, throwing at the least a wet blanket on the remaining embers of reform, a top legislative priority for President Barack Obama in his first year-plus in office.
“This evening the president spoke to both candidates in the hard-fought Massachusetts Senate race. The president congratulated Sen. Brown on his victory and a well-run campaign. The president told Sen. Brown that he looks forward to working with him on the urgent economic challenges facing Massachusetts families and struggling families across our nation,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement released to the media this evening.
The vote putting Brown into position to cast a 41st vote against a reform measure would be an ironic postscript on the legislative work of Kennedy, who had made health-care reform a chief focal point in his nearly half-century in the Senate before he passed away last year.