If Republican Scott Brown wins today's special Senate election in Massachusetts, Democrats' plans to regulate private health insurance out of existence could be scaled back or scuttled altogether. So long, 60th vote. Hello, filibuster.
Or Democrats could resort to the kind of nauseating maneuvering that drove voters to Mr. Brown's campaign in the first place. Americans shouldn't be surprised to see Congress rush to pass a bill before Mr. Brown could be sworn in -- not after the Senate concocted the "Cornhusker Kickback."
The Senate's bill greatly expands Medicaid, the federal-state health care plan for low-income Americans. The federal government would provide full funding for the expansion for three years, then require states to pick up the tab -- except for Nebraska. To secure the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and lock up the 60th vote needed to push the legislation through GOP opposition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised that taxpayers from the other 49 states would forever pay in full for Nebraska's new Medicaid beneficiaries.
Oh, what wrath that constitutionally dubious provision has brought down on Democrats. Massachusetts voters are poised to do what was unthinkable only six months ago -- hand the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat to a Republican. On Friday, former President Bill Clinton privately told House Democrats, "That Nebraska thing is really hurting us."
Meanwhile, the 13 GOP attorneys general who wrote congressional leaders late last year, warning that they would sue if Nebraska's "special dispensation" became law, have since been joined by two more colleagues -- both Democrats.
Sen. Nelson is feeling the heat. He's been so widely ridiculed that he's now saying he never asked for the side deal and no longer wants it. It may not survive the House-Senate reconciliation process.
Sen. Reid, who defended the deal as part of a normal day's work in Washington, could use some extra convincing. The person to provide it is Nevada's Democratic attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto.
Ms. Masto has no interest in challenging her party patriarch, but in taking that position, she offers tacit support for legislation that imposes unfair burdens on Nevadans. If she joins the other 15 attorneys general in voicing opposition to Nebraska's federal welfare, she could kill it once and for all.