Republican Senator Olympia Snowe voted in support of the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill today, passing the legislation 14-9 with Snowe as the lone Republican "yes." This might appear on the surface to be good news for liberals and proponents of reform, but The New Republic's Noam Scheiber thinks Snowe's support is anything but. "You don't need Snowe to pass health care," he writes. "But getting her vote in committee will probably lead to a worse bill. And getting her vote and then losing it later is pretty much the only way health care reform dies this year. So I was rooting for a "no vote" from Snowe today." Scheiber explains:
Why? Because it gives her way too much leverage over the whole process. [...] Now that Snowe has voted 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.) That's because, if you alienate her during the forthcoming negotiations, her defection from the final bill 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 voted for it in committee, but that she can no longer support the bill because it's moved too far to the left. It would be absolutely devastating.
Scheiber looks past the liberal hurrahs and conservative harumphs over Snowe's vote to examine the serious implications of having her on board. Rather than spinning the vote in favor of liberal reform, he wonders whether bringing Snowe on board now could give her more power than liberals would be comfortable with. (On the other side, Ezra Klein lays out an alternate history in which Snowe's vote against would be worse than a vote for.) Only time will tell whether Scheiber is correct, but Congressional Democrats would be wise to heed his warning.