Though their hopes of achieving health care reform took a hit with the election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate in a special Massachusetts election in mid-January, Democrats have vowed to keep fighting until a reform bill is passed.
“You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health reform passed.”
Meanwhile, in his State of the Union address on January 27, President Obama said that passing health care reform was still a priority and urged Congress not to walk away from the issue.
“By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether,” Obama said in his address. “I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.”
Brown won a special election held in Massachusetts on January 19 and took over the late Ted Kennedy’s seat, giving Republicans 41 seats in that chamber, enough to filibuster and block most legislation.
Democrats said that they must now strategize and approach health care reform a different way.
“We’re going to do health care reform this year,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters. “The question is, at this stage, procedurally, how do we get where we need to go?”
Democrats also know that as the Obama administration shifts its focus to rebuilding the economy, it may be a while before the White House backs a push for health care reform. However, they said legislators did not have to favor one issue over another.
“Some of these sidebar issues are issues that are very important,” Pelosi told Politico. “They can be done. They can move quickly. And that’s not about one thing over the other.”