Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hoyer: Dems Could Pass Health Care Before Brown Takes Office

January 19, 2010 | 12:41:23 PM (EST)

Should Republican Scott Brown win Tuesday's Senate race in Massachusetts and break the Democrats' supermajority in the Senate, Congressional Dems could pass a final health care reform bill before Brown is seated, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters at his weekly press briefing Tuesday.

And if that means the House has to rubber-stamp the weaker reform bill that came out of the Senate, he said, "the Senate bill clearly is better than nothing."

Under procedural statutes, Massachusetts officials could buy some time for Congress to pass health care by delaying the certification of a Brown victory. If everything drags out as long as possible, Democrats would have about two weeks to get the final bill to President Obama's desk.

Though he said he is "hopeful" that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley will win the Senate seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy, Hoyer uttered a terse "Yes" when asked whether Democrats could pass legislation of health reform's magnitude in that window. And he said a bill is better than no bill, though earlier in the briefing he took a jab at the weaker Senate package.

"The House passed, as you know, a very significant piece of legislation," Hoyer said, pausing before drawing a contrast. "The Senate passed a piece of legislation." Later, he declined to speculate on the likelihood of House Democrats having enough votes to secure passage of the Senate bill; back in November, the House only passed its own bill by a 220-215 margin.

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