Victory: Brown Win Jeopardizes Obama Agenda
WASHINGTON - One year to the day after his euphoric inauguration, President Obama will spend today trying to rescue his legislative agenda after an election upset in Massachusetts that jeopardizes his top domestic priority, health care.
Republican Scott Brown's triumph over Democrat Martha Coakley in Tuesday's special Senate race marks the third statewide loss in a row for the president's party and the one most fraught with political and policy implications. Brown gives the Republicans the 41st vote they need to block legislation in the Senate.
Brown, one of only five Republicans in the 40-member state Senate, is the first Republican to win a Massachusetts Senate race since 1972. He will be stepping into a seat occupied for 47 years by Sen. Edward Kennedy, a liberal icon and chief advocate for expanding the nation's health care coverage.
Some party rank-and-filers are calling for a new message.
"It's another wake-up call," said Rep. Tom Perriello of Virginia, who is one of about 40 House Democrats facing tough re-election battles this year. "We've got to be about jobs, jobs, jobs."
Democratic leaders now must consider whether to push for final approval of the health care bill. They have been trying to negotiate a compromise bill that would reconcile the differences between bills approved in the House and Senate.
Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, a strong supporter of the health care legislation, said Brown's victory means Congress will have to "start over on health care." He said he will vote against any bill rushed to the floor before Brown can be sworn in.
Before the polls closed, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wouldn't rule asking House Democrats to pass the Senate bill with no changes - preempting the need for a second Senate vote and sending the Senate bill directly to Obama. "I think the Senate bill is clearly better than nothing," Hoyer said.
Brown, touted his come-from-behind Senate bid as a chance to put the brakes on the Obama agenda, pleading with voters to make him the Republicans' "41st senator."
The president also saw the race as a referendum on his program. In taped calls, he told Massachusetts voters that his efforts to pass health care legislation, regulate the financial industry and promote a green economy "will probably rest on one vote in the United States Senate."
Obama's appeal left some supporters unmoved. Susan Semeta of Raynham, Mass., said she voted for the president last year but didn't vote Tuesday because she didn't like any of the candidates.