If Congress tries to ram the Senate health bill through the House to avoid another Senate vote, there will be blood that will stain the rest of the Obama agenda and spill over into the congressional elections. President Obama said that the people of Massachusetts have spoken, and about-to-be Senator Scott Brown should be heard on the issue. This could be a good thing despite the clamor to redouble Democratic partisanship. Increasingly, the balance of voter power rests with activist independents who have no love for either of the parties or their representatives.
Another good thing is the tone of Brown’s first press conference after the election. This morning, he differentiated between the acidity of the campaign and what is needed to serve responsibly. He stressed his independence from reflexive Republican obstructionism. He voiced his distaste with “behind-the-scenes deals.” He called for transparency. He even praised Massachusetts Senate Presidents Travaligni and Murray for working collaboratively across the aisle on ethics, pension,and transportation reform, even stem cell research.
Brown pointed out that he voted for the landmark health care law here and feels reform is an important issue nationally. “Past campaign mode, it’s important to do something about health care,” he said, adding “there are some very good things” in the pending bill. His primary concern was that we consider Massachusetts first.
Brown hints he may be a new breed of Republican (or perhaps a throwback to a way earlier time?) “I’ve had a great relationship with Senator Kerry,” he said. “I have great respect for what he’s done.” Dismissing a question on Kerry’s recent partisan attacks on him, he said “the campaign is over.”
A long generation ago, Massachusetts was served well by a split delegation whose members worked collaboratively and across the aisle for the state and the nation. But that was a far different world from the partisan snake pit of today. Scott Brown’s press conference rhetoric of reasonableness matched the affability that helped propel him into office. The looming test ahead will be how he translates this gracious independent spirit into action once he joins Mitch McConnell and the Republican caucus.