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01/18/2010 08:05 PM
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"This has now turned into a referendum on health care in the bluest state. If Brown wins, technical 60 vote aside, there are a lot of mod[erate] Ds who are going to flip and this thing will be in trouble, not dead, but delayed and possibly scaled back," said a Democratic health care industry insider, adding that a Republican win will make it that much harder for Democratic congressional leaders to sell a final deal to their members.

Republican strategist Phil Blando agreed. He said the argument over whether Kirk's vote will count or not is "a legal technicality in the broader political earthquake that a Brown victory would signal. The concern isn't that you lose Kirk's vote, but that you lose Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Joe Lieberman and a bunch of Blue Dogs."

And any Democratic move to slow-walk seating Brown in order to pass reform, Blando said, is "just naked, pure power politics where, at that point, you're just thwarting the will of the people."

Congressional Republicans, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee, were wary of making the Kirk argument before Tuesday's election and declined to say Sunday whether they plan to advance it should Brown win.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the possibility that Kirk's term may expire after Tuesday an "interesting academic question" on "Fox News Sunday."

"What we have to do is wait until the election is held and then focus on that. I think the first step is to see what the people of Massachusetts say on Tuesday, and then everybody will be looking at the process for swearing in the new senator after that," said McConnell, adding that the winner "should be sworn in promptly."

Democrats pushed back against the GOP argument that Kirk loses his vote on Tuesday saying it would, at a minimum, raise constitutional questions because Kirk is a duly sworn U.S. senator.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said Republicans are wrong to argue that Kirk will no longer be a senator after Election Day, adding that the point will be moot when Coakley wins. Senate leadership will follow the law and Senate rules when seating the next senator from Massachusetts, Manley said.

Still, concern over Brown helped fuel last week's Democratic scramble to finish reform. Obama and congressional Democrats held marathon White House meetings to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of reform and craft a final bill that can pass Congress.

On Sunday, Kirk spokesman Keith Maley told POLITICO that his boss has no plans to step aside until Massachusetts election officials take the necessary steps to certify the election and a new senator is sworn in.

"Senator Kirk plans to serve until the winner of the election is sworn into office and will work to ensure a seamless transition for the new senator," Maley said.

To be sworn into the Senate, a member needs to have certification papers signed by the governor and the secretary of state, a precedent that was underlined over last year's flap in seating Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).
[link to www.politico.com]