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What Happens to Health Care Reform if a Republican Wins in Massachusetts?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 18, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: "On the Record" is live in Boston, and the Senate race is hot, hot and hot. It is neck-and-neck, and we are right down to the final hours. If Republican state senator Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts, is the health care bill dead on arrival?

Joining us live is Emily Cadei, political reporter for Roll Call. Emily, we don't know if he's going to win here, and this is a Democratic state. But of course, you know, all the intrigue is around whether or not he wins. So if the Republican becomes the U.S. senator here in Massachusetts, what does -- what is the Senate going to do? What is Harry Reid going to do.

EMILY CADEI, ROLL CALL: Well, they have a few options, and I would stress that none of them are particularly good options for them. So they're really keeping their fingers crossed that Martha Coakley pulls this out tomorrow.

They could try and pass the bill in the House that's been passed by the Senate, in which case, they would skip the whole process which they're in right now, which is trying to reconcile the House and the Senate bills and just send it back to the House for a quick passage. They'd try to do that before he actually gets sworn in, in about two weeks time.

They also could try a process called "reconciliation," which is rarely used, and it's usually for budget processes. But it basically would only require 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes that they're requiring right now. It would take some going back and reassessing the bill, trying to squeeze it into a leaner process to pass through that reconciliation process. So that could be one option.

Or they could try and start over and win over some Republican support, perhaps, try and win over someone like Olympia Snowe with the current bill, which I think is probably a long shot. So there's a couple things here. I think all of them are not ideal, and there's a lot of political repercussions that could come from any of the above options.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are the Democrats sweating bullets, though, on this tonight? I mean, are they saying, like, you know, this could be -- this could be the death knell to the bill? And are they sort of thinking, like, you know, We've got to try something or -- and if we do do that, you know, it may not be received well come November?

CADEI: Oh, absolutely. I think 100 percent, they're nervous. I think they're starting to resign themselves to the possibility that they might have to do something, which is why we're hearing so much chatter about other options.

They realize that there will be repercussions, no matter what. If they try and push this through before Brown is seated, there's going to be an outcry, a political outcry not just from Republicans but from folks across the country thinking this is more politics as usual, which they thought the Democrats had promised to get beyond.

If they try and use the reconciliation process, I know the Republicans in the Senate are already making threats and have already made threats about snagging up the process as much as possible to slow that down. And I don't know if it's possible to get an even more hyper-partisan environment, but I think that might possibly do it if they try the reconciliation process. So any of these options -- go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there -- are they saying on Capitol Hill, She's a lousy candidate, or are the saying, Oh, we did a terrible job, and now she's getting the backlash because health care has become -- I mean, it has so divided the nation?

CADEI: I think it's a combination. I mean, obviously, Democrats, a lot of them, are trying to wash their hands of this as quickly as possible, so you are hearing the criticism of the Coakley campaign. But I talked to a couple Democratic pollsters over the past couple of days and other strategists who say, Look, this is a perfect storm. We have a political environment that's pretty toxic right now for Democrats. We have a candidate who sort of played into that, and an opposition, a Republican in Scott Brown who really has run quite a good campaign, has played up his credentials as an independent and played into a lot of that anger that we're seeing in the country.

So I think they -- I think, privately, they'll recognize the fact this is not just Coakley, that this is also the larger political environment. Health care is one of those issues, the economy in general and their failure to bring down unemployment is another issue. And so I think -- you know, they're saying -- I think the perfect storm is the way they're framing it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, I, you know, want to emphasize again, we've had so much attention tonight on the Coakley campaign and the suggestion, you know, what if the Republican wins, and -- it is anybody's game. We have no idea whether she wins or he wins tomorrow. It is neck- and-neck, and that's why it's also so profoundly important and exciting and all those words. Emily, thank you.

CADEI: Absolutely. Yes. Happy New Year.

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