Sunday, January 17, 2010

Can interim senator Paul Kirk vote after a Brown win?

Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard has looked into the legal ramifications of what happens to interim senator Paul Kirk’s voting ability in the event of a Scott Brown victory.  GOP lawyers say there is precedent that Kirk loses his voting ability the second Brown wins.  According to Massachusetts’s law, Kirk’s is only valid until a qualified candidate is duly election. Note it is qualified not "certified". There is also Senate precedent and the Constitution that backs up Kirk’s lame duck status. Read the whole article here for a full understanding.

While this is a comforting thought, I don’t hold out much hope of Democrats respecting precedent or the spirit of the law. Over the last year they have only seemed interested in doing so when it worked to their benefit.

·  House passes the Senate version as-is.Right now the healthcare bill is in conference, meaning the House and Senate are coming up with a compromise that bouth bodies could then go back and pass. But if Democrats fell below the 60 vote threshold, it's possible that house Democrats could drop all compromise demands, and simply vote in favor of the Senate bill, which would then not require a second vote in the Senate. This seems unlikely though, given that there are differences between the two, and since a Martha Coakley loss would cause a lot of moderate Dems to get nervous.
· Democrats succeed in slowing the seating of Scott brown, giving the 60 sitting members time to vote. If Scott Brown wins, expect all kinds of legal challenges, recounts, and other efforts to slow his seating, giving Congress time to pass the bill. This would look horrible to voters, and it may not even work given the amount of time required to reach a compromise.
· Democrats succeed in slowing the seating of Scott Brown, but Republicans succeed in preventing sitting Senator Paul Kirk from voting. Democrats might be able to slow Brown's entry into the Senate, but Republicans are already taking about their own trick. In The Weekly Standard, conservative commenter Fred Barnes argues that under Massachusetts law, sitting senator Paul Kirk is ineligible to vote right after the election takes place, regardless of who wins.
· Democrats bend Senate rules in order for healthcare to pass with 51 votes. Apparently Democrats could, theoretically, break Senate rules in such a way that would allow the Senate to pass healthcare reform with only 51 votes. We haven't seen a clear explanation of how this would work, though it might require the bill to be scaled back in some way.
· Democrats convince a liberal GOP Senator (like Susan Collins) to support healthcare reform.There are one or two Republicans who might be willing to support a bill, though we haven't seen this proposed too seriously.
· Healthcare dies. Probably the most likely scenario. See Megan McArdle's explanation here.

Of the scenarios, numbers 2 and 4 would seem radioactive to me. Scott Brown is running against ObamaCare, so his victory is a referendum on ObamaCare. For the Democrats to go over the people’s heads once more will push things beyond the brink.

I think scenarios 1 and 5 are dead already. With the race in Massachusetts already looking so shaky, the safe thing to do would be to pass it as is or get the extra senate vote now. The fact that they haven’t tells me that they may not be able to. I think there are too many Dems running out the clock to see what happens in Mass. A Scott Brown victory will be they reason to bolt.

Scenario 3 is pretty much a temporary stalemate that eventually leads to Scott Brown voting against ObamaCare and I see no advantage for either side in that.

I agree that healthcare dying is the most likely scenario should Scott Brown win. Right now the Dem leadership is spinning that not passing healthcare reform will hurt more than passing it, but a Scott Brown victory would prove that false beyond a doubt.

Of course, should Coakley win all is moot. The Dems will immediately seat her and she will vote for ObamaCare without batting an eye.


Chris W said...

Great analysis ABC.

The Massachusetts race has so many ramifications for where our country will be heading over the next 3 years starting with Obamacare.

I've posted it over on my blog.

The Griper said...

one question, my friend. wouldn't the states have the right to determine their own qualifications for a man who is to represent them? wouldn't the Constitutional qualifications be considered just the minimum?

Just Me said...

I agree 200% with the sentiment that IF the adminstration bypasses the votes to push the health care bill through, it will most definitely push things over the brink.

I can't remember the last time I was this excited about an election.

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