With a Republican having won the important 41st Senate seat, making possible Republican filibusters to block Democrat legislation, the Democrats have several crafty maneuvers they can use to pass healthcare. None of them are ethical; all of them reflect massive arrogance. But since when has that stopped these guys?
1. They can hurry through the vote before Brown takes over the Senate seat. The House of Representatives can be pressured to accept the Senate vesion of healthcare legislation -- quickly. Democrats have been meeting in secret with the Obama White House (no C-Span cameras covering these meetings) and a vote may come as early as Saturday, January 23.
2. They delay Brown's seating by having the Massachusetts Secretary of State (a Democrat) delay his confirmation, or the Democrat Senate leaders can take their time seating him. This gives them time to make more deals.
3. Democrats can use the power of reconciliation, a maneuver in the Senate where they tie legislation to the budget, which limits debate and allows passage with only 51 votes. The House has a similar rule, but it is much easier to carry out through majority leadership strongarming.
Obviously, classifying healthcare legislation as a "budget" item stretches incredulity, but nothing is out of the question anymore when it comes to Obama and the Democrats in charge of Congress. However, the victory of a Republican in a dark blue state reinvigorates the Republican party, which was pronounced DOA after Obama's victory last year.