President Obama, Democrats: Not Going to Rush Health Care

Senator-elect Scott Brown meets with GOP Senate leaders in Washington.

ByABC News via logo
January 21, 2010, 7:09 AM

Jan. 21, 2010— -- Newly-elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown arrived in Washington, D.C. today as the man of the hour.

Two months ago, few would have heard of the state senator, and rarely has a freshman senator come to the nation's capital with so much fanfare. But Brown's shocking win has rattled the political world and threatens to topple Democrats' health care agenda, even before he is sworn in.

Brown told reporters today that he thinks President Obama has done a good job on some issues, such as dealing with North Korea and Iran, but that the Democrats' health care agenda is not good for Massachusetts.

"I am not in the favor of one size fits all. I am more of a states' rights person," Brown said.

Standing outside the Senate building, he added, "This is the best place in the world when it comes to solving problems, and we've sort of lost our way."

Brown met with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and interim Massachusetts Sen. Paul Kirk. He won't become a senator until the election results are officially certified, and that could take another week but his win has already shaken up health care strategies.

Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., acknowledged that there will not be enough votes in the House to pass the Senate health care bill, as had been suggested as a way to enact the health care bill and avoid another Senate vote on it before Brown is seated.

"It is not possible to pass the Senate bill in its present form," Pelosi told reporters. "In every meeting that we've had, there's been nothing to give me any thought that that bill could pass right now the way it is."

Pelosi said "unease" would be a "gentle word" to categorize the feelings of members of the House, many of whom are taking issues with provisions in the Senate bill that give breaks to Nebraska and other states, and an excise tax on high-end insurance plans. But the speaker insisted that health care discussions will move forward.

"Nothing is being discarded. Everything is on the table," she said.

Democrats admitted Wednesday that they may have to accept a trimmed down version of their health care bill.

"The election in Massachusetts changes the math in the Senate," Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Wednesday. "It's easy math. It's simple math."

The new math: Senate Democrats do not have enough votes they need to avoid a Republican filibuster of any major bill, including health care. Brown has vowed he will be the 41st senator to vote against the health care legislation being crafted in Congress by Democrats, who say, for now, they will have to wait.

Brown defeated heavily favored Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

President Obama warned Democrats not to "jam" a health care reform bill through now that they've lost their commanding majority in the Senate, and said they must wait for Brown to be sworn into office.

"Here's one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table: The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated," the president told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview. "People in Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process."

Read the transcript of President Obama's exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Reid got the message.

"We're not going to rush into anything," the Senate majority leader said on Capitol Hill Wednesday. "As you've heard, we're going to wait until the new senator arrives before we do anything more on health care. There are many different things that we can do to move forward on health care, but we're not making any of those decisions now."

Today, Kerry said the process of seating Brown should happen "as expeditiously as possible."

Even though some Republicans are wary of Brown -- he touted himself as an independent Republican in his campaign -- many are ecstatic about getting the 41st "No" vote against health care and are convinced that it means an end to the Democratic bill.

"The American people have spoken," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "The people of Massachusetts have spoken for the rest of America. Stop this process."

"Sit down in open and transparent negotiations, let's begin from the beginning," urged the former GOP presidential candidate.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisted that health care legislation will move forward, despite Brown's win.

"Heeding the particular concerns of the voters of Massachusetts, we heard, we will heed, we will move forward with their considerations in mind. But we will move forward," Pelosi told the U.S. Conference of Mayors Wednesday. She, however, did not specify what Plan B is.

Obama told ABC News that the same voter anger that swept him into office in 2008 carried Brown into office.

"Here's my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office," the president said. "People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years."