Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Democrats Weigh Contingency Plans

“I think that the leadership is committed to doing everything it can to make sure that the health care bill moves as quickly as possible to the president’s desk,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) said Tuesday. “Obviously, the vote in Massachusetts could have an impact on the strategy.”

Some Democratic aides acknowledged that the party made a strategic error in relying solely on the votes of Democrats to get the health care bill passed in the Senate. Though Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority, requiring consensus from all 60 Members of the caucus left no room for error and gave individual Democratic Senators more incentive to play for their own political interests, rather than promoting a united party front.

“Sixty was the worst thing that ever happened to us because it empowered people to be selfish, egotistical whiners,” said one Senate Democratic aide.

The aide added that the tactic damaged Democrats by exposing the natural tensions between party liberals and moderates.

“The problem is we play against each other all the time,” the aide said.

Before the Massachusetts results were even in on Tuesday, Democrats said that, win or lose, the race was certainly making them reassess their strategic vision for the year. “In this town, there’s spin, there’s perception and there’s reality,” said one senior Senate Democratic aide. “And regardless of the outcome, I think Democrats will take a look at the legislative agenda to see if it needs weakening going into the midterms.”

Democrats had been racing to finish the health care bill before the special election appeared close, because they felt bogged down by the fight and wanted to pivot to bills intended to spur job creation and address economic concerns.

“To some extent, there already has been a realization that we need to more directly address the economy and jobs, and this year’s agenda will reflect that. It’s time to get back to basics,” said another senior Senate Democratic aide.

Aides said that while Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley clearly ran a poor campaign, her failures were not the sole cause of the party’s troubles in the state. They noted that the Massachusetts race made the country’s anger and frustration over the economy more visible, but they cautioned against framing the entire 2010 election around the special election.

“There’s a political ice age between this race and November,” said the first senior aide. “A lot can happen.”

Jennifer Bendery and David M. Drucker contributed to this report.

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