Snowe's vote paves way for other centrists to support Baucus health bill

Before voting with the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, had been involved in negotiations for months that led to the shape of the measure's key elements, USA Today reports.

"The Maine senator refused to support a government-run insurance option to compete with private insurers — and the bill didn't have one. She wanted insurance policies to be more affordable for lower-income workers — and the bill was changed to provide bigger government subsidies." Snowe has earned a reputation for this type of strategy. She only voted with her party 44 percent of the time in 2009 through August, and was one of only three Republicans to support Obama's stimulus package (Schouten, 10/13).

The Associated Press bids readers to "Forget Sarah Palin. The female maverick of the Republican Party is Sen. Olympia Snowe." Though Republicans had "grumbled about punishing Snowe should she vote 'yes' ... the best they could do publicly Tuesday was to make clear that she told them her decision before the Democrats found out.... 'I don't think there's any possible negative political implication,' one Maine political watcher said. 'She is untouchable electorally in the state of Maine'" (Kellman, 10/13).

In "fiercely independent" Maine, a Web publisher, a church steeple maker, and a contractor praised Snowe's vote, Maine Business reports. "Today's vote gives us hope. All we are looking for is a little more coverage at a lower price," the steeple builder said (Hoey, 10/14).

The vote Tuesday does, however, provide leverage for Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who can now "argue that what he has delivered is as far as moderates in the Democratic Party are willing to go — and if liberals try to put in an employer mandate, a robust public option or massive new subsidies for coverage, the delicate balance Baucus forged in his committee will splinter" Politico reports (Budoff Brown, 10/13).

Roll Call reports that one Democratic aide said, "Health care reform didn't just gain one Republican vote today, it gained about four or five centrist Democratic votes. Snowe's support, assuming it holds, will provide the cover many moderates needed to vote for this bill" (Pierce, 10/14).

Meanwhile, Democrats may have lost a vote, Roll Call reports in a separate story. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told FOX News Tuesday, that he could not support the current version of the Finance Committee's bill. "I'm afraid that in the end the Baucus bill is actually going to raise the price of insurance," he said (Pierce, 10/13).

The Wall Street Journal has a roster of some other Senate players to keep an eye on. Snowe offers the obvious "swing vote"; the "other Republican" is Susan Collins, R-Maine, who may be swayed to support a Democratic proposal; Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., faces re-election in a conservative district and a "yes" vote could be politically risky on the floor; Ben Nelson, D-Neb., "the conservative," may also back away from Democratic plans; Mary Landrieu, D-La., "the Southerner," faces stiff resistance at home; and, the Senate's "wild card," Roland Burris, D-Ill., has criticized the bill from the left, saying he won't support it without a public option (Bendavid, 10/14).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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