Ted Kennedy's death may be the nail in the coffin of Obamacare. The issue of succession for Kennedy's seat is unresolved. The Massachusetts Legislature does not return until after Labor Day, and there is a great deal of push back on changing the law, which many lawmakers view as a hypocritical move given the law was changed originally to deny a then Republican Governor Mitt Romney from appointing a Republican had Kerry won the presidency in 2004. If the legislature holds to the current letter of the law a special election will occur within 145-160 days. Likely long after the health care vote is taken.
Couple that with the ill health of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Obamacare may well be on life support.
That sets up the scenario of using Reconciliation to move the bill forward in the Senate requiring only 51 votes. This tactic has only been used 19 times in the past. On such a major piece of legislation, moving the bill via reconciliation may be viewed as "ramming the bill down the throat" of the American Public when polls indicate that support for Health care reform is waning and in fact the majority of Americans may now be against it, some Democratic Senators facing re-election may be reluctant to vote for legislation that would possibly mean defeat in 2010.
In fact in order to get 51 votes at this point the Senate bill would be extremely "watered down" from the house bill without a government option. The Senate version would have to look dramatically different than HR3200 from the house and that would make conference extremely difficult.
The Obama Administration, known for turning a crisis into an opportunity may try to use Kennedy's legacy to 'sell' health-care reform to the American public , but that may backfire on them as many American's may see through that as a cheap tactic and cause even more push back from the American public. If the Obama administration mis-plays this, they may find themselves with a Republican controlled Senate AND House after the 2010 elections, essentially leaving Obama as a lame duck.