ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports:
Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean told MSNBC on Tuesday that Republican Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts is the latest sign that Democrats in Washington need to toughen up.
“We’ve got to be tougher. I’ve said the Democrats are not tough enough,” said Dean. “Bush would have had the health care bill done a long time ago. He would have gone through reconciliation.”
Dean said that the election does not mean that Democrats should give up on health-care reform. Instead, he thinks it means that they should jettison the drawn-out, compromised process that they have been following as they have tried to put together 60 votes in the Senate.
During his post-election interview on MSNBC, Dean seemed skeptical about the wisdom and likelihood of getting the House of Representatives to pass the identical Senate bill. The “pass the Senate bill” approach is under consideration by the White House and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill because Brown pledged to block Obama’s health-care overhaul if elected to the Senate.
The former DNC chairman is advocating that President Obama start over with a bill that simply allows Americans over 55 to buy into Medicare.
Dean said a Medicare expansion is easy to understand, gets people insurance right away, and can go through the reconciliation process, which would only require a simple majority vote rather than 60 votes in the Senate.
He acknowledged that budget reconciliation cannot be used to pass insurance reform but argued that there is not much “real” insurance reform in the Senate bill anyway.
Dean added that Brown’s election to the Senate seat that was filled for decades by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., may actually “make the process better.”
“I think we would have been better off if we had had 59 senators to start with,” Dean said.
Dean thinks Democrats would have been better off at 59 from the beginning because it would have put them on the reconciliation path earlier in the process.