By Lindsay Beyerstein
Martha Coakley's loss in Massachusetts will end the Democrats' 60-vote majority in the Senate. This is a major setback for health care reform, but let's not hang crepe yet. Remember, the Senate already passed its bill. If the House were to "ping pong" the bill by passing the identical legislation, the bill wouldn't have to go back to the Senate for final approval. So, no 60-vote majority required.
The alternative would be to fast-track the conference report and put it to a vote before Scott Brown is sworn in. This seems procedurally viable, and would probably result in a more progressive bill, but Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va) has already made it clear that he doesn't want a Senate health care vote before Brown is sworn in. If Webb won't cooperate, the fast-track approach is dead.
So, the choice is between ping pong and abject defeat. It had better be ping pong. For all its faults, the Senate bill is still better than nothing.