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Monday, January 18, 2010

What would a Scott Brown victory mean?

Two things right off the bat. The first one is the loss of a not-so-filibuster-proof majority. The second, a debilitating media narrative: that Coakley's loss was a referendum on the President, even though he has a 25 point net positive approval rating in Massachusetts.

There are, however, some silver linings. The first is that in certain ways not having a filibuster-proof majority is politically advantageous to the President. If you have 60 votes, the pressure is on you to deliver every single one of them. If you have 59, the pressure is suddenly on the minority party not to be obstructionist. Remember, Obama may be unpopular, but he's way more popular than the Republican Party as a brand. Republicans are doing well in these elections because the economy is creating an anti-incumbent wave, not because people like them.

After Obama gets hit hard with the initial media narrative, a new one will emerge: the President only has 59 votes and needs a vote from the other side. As Democrats begin to focus on a raft of populist measures in preparation for 2010, filibustering Republicans could suddenly find themselves the focus of the type of scrutiny they never received last year, when GOP politicians got to coast by saying, "The President can't even get his own senators on board." The Washington mantra of bipartisanship will now start biting the Republican Party in rather unsavory places.

Today comes even better news. If Coakley loses, the House may pass the Senate version in exchange for a promise to use reconciliation to expand health care. It will take 60 senators to repeal the new law; it will only take 50 to expand it.

The use of reconciliation following passage of a health care bill was always progressives' dream scenario. It's about to be foisted on us... by the teabaggers.

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