Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) is a conservative ideologue who opposes financial reform, the bank responsibility fee, immigration reform, health reform, clean energy reform, doubts global warming, supports torture, and rejects the stimulus as an utter failure that has not created a “single job.” As the Boston Globe editorial board has concluded, Brown is “more conservative than those of most Massachusetts Republicans,” but has cultivated an appealing image through largely “misleading” and vague claims about policy. Brown has cast himself as an independent — even though he had one of the most partisan Republican voting records in the Massachusetts legislature. The other part of Brown’s appeal is his ability to seemingly embrace progressive stances without actually committing to them. For instance, he campaigned by falsely telling voters that Obama is “my President and I agree with him I think on more issues than Martha Coakley.”
Now, Brown is preparing to defeat reform by using the same deceptive charm he employed on the voters of Massachusetts. Brown has been profiled and praised as a possible “swing vote” to work with Democrats to bring a new health reform package. Speaking to the press alongside Brown last week, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) struck a conciliatory tone, asserting that Brown might work hand in hand with Democrats to move forward a reform bill on “things here that we can all agree on.” Yesterday on Meet the Press, White House advisor Valerie Jarrett said Brown is “looking forward to coming to Washington and working with the Democrats” on a health reform bill.
But Democrats who are counting on Brown seem to be deluding themselves. Brown has no intention of ensuring a new health reform bill is crafted and passed by Congress. In addition to repeated promises not to make any “Washington deals,” Brown set a criteria for health reform that would make any effort to work with him impossible:
— Brown campaigned on the explicit promise to “be the 41st vote” against Obama’s agenda, and that he would “actually stop” Obama’s domestic reforms. On health reform, he said he wants to “start over” from scratch.
— Brown promised to oppose a health reform bill with any new financing mechanism: he said he opposes any “higher fees, higher taxes.”
— Brown opposes health insurance regulations, wants to deregulate even the Massachusetts system. He told WBUR that current regulations enjoyed in Massachusetts — like ending denial of preexisting conditions — are “burdensome” and “drive up the price of insurance policies.”
— Brown is opposed to subsidizing health reform in poorer states, even though the Massachusetts health reform plan he supports is financed by $385 million in annual federal Medicaid funds.
Any reform, no matter how small or incremental, would be seen as a betrayal to Brown’s suburban and tea party base.
Last year, the insurance industry and their allies in Congress successfully bogged down health reform by fooling Democrats into working with the “gang of six” to develop a bipartisan solution. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who promised to work on a solution, was later revealed to be a dishonest broker, secretly working with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and others to obstruct the process and misinform the public about the legislation. Will progressives fall into the same trap, and abandon the Senate version — which could be passed through the House and signed into law — in favor of restarting the months-long legislative process and hoping to work with Brown?