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Railroading Health Care

When Ted Kennedy died last August, Democrats swung into action to ensure that the health-care train (which yesterday was involved in a train wreck) did not slow down. Massachusetts law required a special election to choose a Kennedy successor, but Democrats were unwilling to wait the necessary five months to conduct one. At Kennedy’s funeral, President Obama spoke to Governor Patrick about changing the law — part of a “furious lobbying campaign by national Democrats” to get Patrick to appoint an immediate interim successor.

The move to amend the law required a blatant disregard of principle by the Massachusetts Democrats, since they had established the election procedure in 2004 to deny the governor (then Mitt Romney) the power to choose a successor to John Kerry if Kerry won the presidential election. The law giving the power to Patrick barely passed, even though the legislature had only five Republican members: legislative leaders were still scrambling in the hours before the vote. Patrick mustered a majority but not the two-thirds vote necessary to make the legislation effective immediately. He declared it “emergency” legislation nonetheless so he could immediately appoint Paul Kirk, at the urging of Kennedy’s widow and sons. Kirk announced he was grateful the family chose him “to be a voice and a vote” for Kennedy’s causes.

Kirk provided a reliable 60th vote for a process that subsequently featured late-night and weekend sessions to meet artificial deadlines, with successively more blatant kickbacks to key senators and special interests to keep the train on its tracks. It was a process that could not have been more repulsive had it been shown on C-SPAN. It culminated in the historic repudiation last night in a state where voters knew better than most how corrupt the process had been: it had been enabled by the Massachusetts end run five months earlier.

In his speech on Sunday, Scott Brown disclosed the secret of his successful campaign:

The political experts are still wondering how this little campaign of ours grew so fast and gathered so much strength and momentum.  The reason is simple.

We do not want a senator whose only question on health care is to ask Harry Reid, “How do you want me to vote?”  Massachusetts wants real reform, and not this trillion-dollar Obama health care bill being forced on the American people.

The train conductor addresses Congress in one week. It will be a much different one than the one he helped create five months ago, which led him to this crash.



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