Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) is serving his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the influential and powerful Appropriations Committee.
The day following the Massachusetts Special Election, he spoke with me about the ramifications the election last Tuesday will have for Democrats and the necessity for Democrats to push forward with the mandate he believes President Obama received from the electorate a year ago.
Kathleen Wells: What does the Scott Brown victory in the Massachusetts Senate race say to Democrats in general?
Congressman Chaka Fattah: Well, I think it's an important notice that the support that we enjoyed from the public in the election a year ago requires us to get our work done. And also that we bring people along as we go -- that we not only do the work, but that we have to communicate it in ways that people understand. And that our opposition will confuse and irritate voters at every opportunity.
They say it is a trillion dollar, one-shot-fits-all bill -- we know that's ludicrous -- but if we don't respond, left to their own devices, people will believe what they are hearing.
There is so much misinformation; it's really not surprising that a lot of the public is confused about what we are trying to do in terms of health care reform.
But I believe that you have to respect the election in one state that took place yesterday and you also have to respect the election that took place in 50 states one year ago when President Obama was elected. Democrats were handed majorities in the House and Senate, and one of the clear mandates was to issue in a national health care reform.
We need to get our work done, but we also need to be mindful that, as we go forward, we do have our opposition and the opposition is not handcuffed by the truth; they will use any lie on any day to promote their point of view.
Kathleen Wells: How does the Scott Brown victory specifically impact the health care reform bill?
Congressman Fattah: Well, I think it will in as much as that there was an agreement -- a consensus that had been arrived at between House and Senate leaders and the White House -- that was being scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Assuming that you had that agreement, you would have had a House bill and a Senate bill that would require 60 votes. You will now have to find that 60th vote for that merged bill between the House and the Senate. And that will mean, either re-recruiting Olympia Snowe or finding another vote. You also could have some Democrats or Independents who supported the Senate version who could become slightly uncomfortable given yesterday's results.
So you could end up with having to navigate a more difficult political landscape. But I don't believe that that's any excuse for us not to get our work done. We have Democrats in the Senate and two Independents that caucus with the Democrats. And even if we have to overcome a filibuster -- that is, if you can't find the 60th vote -- that is what we may have to achieve.
Kathleen Wells: So your position is that Congress should go forward with the health care bill. And going forward will be the Senate bill, which doesn't contain a public option, which many polls indicate that the majority of Democrats would like to have. Can you comment on this development?
Congressman Fattah: The last time we faced a filibuster -- and neither I nor you were in Washington, I'm sure, at the time -- was the Civil Rights Act. It was done in a piecemeal fashion; it wasn't all done at once.
We may have to have a more nuanced approach to get 60 votes on a nationwide reform. But you could also use a budget reconciliation process or some other process to create a public option or to do things you weren't able to [get] 60 votes for.
Kathleen Wells: Could you be more specific clarify the procedure/process?