Can Health Care Reform Survive Without GOP?

Sen. Olympia Snowe backs out, leaving zero Republican support, but Democrats continue to hope

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With health care reform still in the Senate, where it probably needs 60 votes to pass, the last Republican Senator to support the reform bill, Olympia Snowe, has dropped out. This leaves the Senate Finance Committee's bill, the current iteration of reform under discussion, with exactly zero pledged Republican votes of support. Can health care reform still pass without Republicans? Even if it does, will it still be anything worthwhile?

  • Obama Should "Hammer" Snowe  David Sirota penned an open letter to Obama titled "Stop Being a Celebrity, Start Being a Leader." He wrote, "It seems to me that if you went to states like, say, Montana, Iowa and Maine and publicly hammered Sens. Baucus, Grassley and Snowe as obstructionists, there's a decent chance they would fall in line (especially Baucus, who is a Democrat who always worries about losing a primary). At minimum, doing that kind of thing, rather than spending time on national/glam television and courting elite journalists/talk show hosts, gives you a better chance of delivering concrete legislative results, even if it might make you momentarily less of a pop culture celebrity.
  • Snowe Could Be Back  Publius urged liberals not to give up on Snowe's support. "I don't think this is the last word on Snowe," he wrote. "It could be kabuki on her part -- establish opposition now to provide political cover for later support. Of literally all the Senate Republicans, she seems sincere in her desire to get a decent reform bill."
  • No Reform Without Republicans  Megan McArdle expressed skepticism reform could still pass. "If so, it will be the first time in history that I can think of that a single party passed anything of this size--certainly not a major new entitlement," she wrote. "Medicare and Social Security both had considerable Republican votes, something I don't see this time around."
  • Republicans Not Needed  Washington Post's Ben Pershing dismissed the importance of GOP support. "How strong were the chances for such a compromise in the first place?" he asked. "Beyond the basic necessity to get 60 votes in the Senate, how important is it in the broad scheme of things to pass a bill with two or three Republican votes, instead of none?"
  • It's a Republican Trap  David Corn labeled any GOP support for reform "a Republican trap" that could harm Democrats. "Though some Republicans have been ticked off at the GOP half of the Gang of Six--Senators Charles Grassley, Mike Enzi, and Olympia Snowe--the Republicans may owe these legislators their thanks," he wrote. "By flirting with Baucus over the bill, they have moved him to the right, and he's produced a cheaper measure that could cause the Democrats real political problems with working-class families."
  • It's Just Negotiations  Nate Silver advised calm. "Leverage in a negotiation is not necessarily a zero-sum affair, since nobody has any leverage if there's no hope to reach an agreement. So some of this maneuvering, perhaps, is a reflection of the bill moving closer to passage and not further away." Silver noted that the latest iteration of reform is not the final word. "There are at least three other starting points for a final showdown over health care: the House Tri-Committee bill, the Senate HELP bill, and possibly also the White's House's statement of principles, some of which remain vaguely defined."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.