Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, who has issued several guarantees that a health care bill would get passed and to the president, says the upset in the Massachusetts Senate race holds no national significance for the issue. Republican Scott Brown upset Democrat Martha Coakley, giving Republicans the ability to block the health care bill.
Harkin says former Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neil once said all elections are local and he doesn’t know that they are reading anything nationally into the result. “I see one of the Republican leaders said today after the vote in Massachusetts ‘the American people have spoken’. Well, I mean this was a Massachusetts election, it wasn’t a landslide, he did win convincingly, but it wasn’t a landslide, so I don’t think you can say the American people have spoken,” Harkin says.
Harkin says another factor in the senate race is that 98% of Massachusetts residents already have health insurance and the senate bill modeled a lot of that state bill. Harkin says the Democrats were not able to get their message about the health care bill out. He says most Democrats favor health care reform and they have many different ideas about it, but he says the Republicans were successful in standing as one against reform.
Harkin says: “And so that voice, that one singular voice of ‘no stop everything’, has gotten through much clearer than the normal debate that surrounds something of this magnitude. So, people are hearing a lot of conflicting kinds of information about this health care bill.” Harkin says what people did hear from Republicans is “no,no,no.”
“And that message gets through a lot faster and a lot clearer than a reasoned message about what we have to do about health care reform,” Harkin says. He says there was a lot of misinformation out there, and cites the talk of “death panels” and cutting Medicare as information that was not true.
Harkin also joined some other Democrats in blaming the loss on Coakley. Harkin says he found out yesterday that Coakley, who was the state attorney general won her primary on December 8th and in between the general election took 10 days off for a vacation. “Well, wait a minute, you’re running for the senate and you leave the state for 10 days on a vacation? That doesn’t make any sense,” Harkin says. Harkin says the winner of the race, was a “likeable” guy who ran a good campaign.
Harkin says Democrats are continuing to meet to try and decide where to go from here. Harkin says nothing has been decided and they are reassessing the situation. He says there is a general consensus that something that they have to move forward on health care if the economy is going to come back. “We have to do something about putting controls on the burgeoning cost of health care in this country,” Harkin says.
Harkin made his comments during a conference call with reporters.