By Jeffrey Young - 01/17/10 03:35 PM EST
The healthcare reform bill poised to pass Congress in the coming weeks will haunt Democrats throughout the next two election cycles -- and the tight Massachusetts Senate race to be decided Tuesday is only a preview, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) contended Sunday.
"Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins," McConnell said on "Fox News Sunday." "Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.'"
Republicans have been virtually united in their opposition to the Democratic healthcare reform proposals -- and opinion polling on the bills has been mixed at best. Echoing the GOP strategy against the Clinton administration's ultimately failed attempt at healthcare reform in the 1990s, McConnell said the issue would play big in this year's congressional elections and in President Barack Obama's reelection campaign.
"Whether it passes or whether it fails, it will be a huge issue not just in 2010 but in 2012," McConnell said.
Voters will go to the polls in Massachusetts on Tuesday to choose who will succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) in a unexpectedly close race between state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) and state Sen. Scott Brown (R). The outcome of the election has a more than symbolic significance for the healthcare bill because Democrats passed the Senate version with the minimum 60 votes needed to overcome a unanimous Republican filibuster. As House and Senate Democratic leaders work with the White House to reconcile their respective healthcare reform bills, they face the prospect of losing that critical 60th vote in the upper chamber.
McConnell declined to predict whether Brown would defeat Coakley and also offered little comment on the worry among some conservatives that Massachusetts' Democratic administration would delay seating Brown should he win to give Democrats in Washington more time to complete their healthcare bill. "It’s an interesting academic question. What we have to do is wait until the election is held and then focus on that," McConnell said. "The winner, whoever it is, should be sworn in promptly."
"Regardless of the outcome Tuesday, we know that in the most liberal state in the country, you’re going to have a close election for the United States Senate because the people of Massachusetts don’t want this healthcare bill to pass," he said.