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Health care summit: Will Scott Brown work for, or against, reform?

Scott Brown hasn't been invited to attend Thursday's summit. But he could still play a key role in brokering a compromise.

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Newly elected Senator Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts hasn't been invited to attend Thursday's health care summit. But that shouldn't stop him from working toward a badly needed compromise. The course he charts over the next few months could have a profound impact on Washington.

Will he join Republicans in efforts to "break" Mr. Obama, or will he work to break gridlock in the Senate? This is not just about passing healthcare reform; it is about whether anything will get done in Congress. At a time when the country needs an effective legislature, Congress seems incapable of rising above partisan bickering, which explains why respected moderates such as Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana are leaving in frustration.

Brown can serve Massachusetts and the country by restoring the lost art of compromise. As a Republican representing a liberal state, he is uniquely positioned to foster bipartisanship by balancing the interests of his party with those of his constituents. If he chooses mere obstructionism, he will have a lot of explaining to do when he faces voters in 2012. 

Moreover, he is the successor to Sen. Ted Kennedy, a man beloved by his constituents. Brown may feel some pressure to pick up Kennedy's fallen standard and say to the nation, "Let's solve our problems." Kennedy was a staunch liberal, but he was known for his willingness to work with his conservative colleagues to advance important legislation.

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