Could Snowe's Support Weaken Health Care Reform?

The moderate Republican announced she will vote for reform today, but that could be bad news for liberals

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Senator Olympia Snowe has announced she will vote for the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill afternoon, virtually assuring its passage from the 23-member committee and movement to the Senate as a whole. Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine, has been courted for months by Congress and the White House, and her vote comes with the warning that she could change her mind by the time it reaches the Senate for a vote. Beyond the immediate implications for today's vote, what will Snowe's support mean for health care reform?

  • Moderate Baucus Plan Could be Final Bill  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder predicts this will make Max Baucus's moderate health care proposal, which lacks a public option, more likely to look like any final bill that President Obama signs into law. "Snowe plans to vote 'yes' on the Baucus mark, surprising just about everybody. Translated: the final bill better be like this one." NBC's Chuck Todd agrees: "Snowe's support for Senate Finance Cmte bill means Reid-Baucus-WH are running health care bill; House Dems and Dodd less influential now." This is less than great news for those who wanted a more liberal version of health care reform, then.
  • Snowe's Support Gives Her Too Much Leverage  The New Republic's Noam Scheiber cautions that Snowe's vote "will probably lead to a worse bill" in the long run. "But you can make an argument that Dems don't want Snowe's vote today. Why? Because it gives her way too much leverage over the whole process," Scheiber writes for The New Republic. "if Snowe votes for the bill in committee, she can basically dictate the terms of the final bill. (Anyone wondering about the havoc she might wreak need only look at the stimulus.) And if she somehow gets alienated during those negotiations, her defection from the final bill after voting yes in committee would be disastrous. Just imagine the atmospherics of Olympia Snowe getting up on the Senate floor and saying she was so serious about passing health care reform she already voted for it, but that she can no longer support the bill because it's moved too far to the left. It would be absolutely devastating." Scheiber concludes, "Getting her vote and then losing it later is pretty much the only way health care reform dies this year."
  • Snowe Betrays Conservatives Again  Michelle Malkin surveys Snowe's predilection for occasionally siding with Democrats. "Sen. Olympia Snowe was one of the three members of the Senate GOP Turncoat Caucus who voted for the trillion-dollar Generational Theft Act," the conservative blogger writes. "Snowe is going to vote with the Democrats. Surprise." Malkin tweeted, "I asked this morning, 'Will Snowe fall again?' We have an answer: YES."
  • Snowe Saved us From Ben Nelson  Ezra Klein dissents. "On health-care reform, it's a lot more dangerous to leave the power with the most conservative Democrat than the most liberal Republican," the liberal Washington Post blogger writes. "Liberals should hope for an 'aye' from Snowe. If she abandons the bill, that empowers Ben Nelson as the eventual dealmaker, much as he was during stimulus." Klein warns that Nelson, a conservative Democratic Senator, would do more harm to health care than Snowe would.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.