Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has announced that she will vote the Baucus health care bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, making her the only Republican to support any health reform measure. Snowe explained that she had “reservations” about the Baucus bill and stressed that her vote would help the reform process move forward.
So is this bill all that I want? Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every available opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time…There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey….That is why my vote to report this bill out of committee represents. It is to continue working the process. I do it with reservations because I share my Republican colleagues’ trepidations about what will transpire on the Senate floor, what will emerge in House and Senate conference and how indeed the Finance Committee’s bill will be merged with the HELP bill.
Some have speculated that the recent insurance industry report encouraged Snowe to vote in favor of reform. The insurance industry attacked Snowe’s amendments to lower the penalties for Americans who don’t meet the requirements of the individual mandate and the senator harshly condemned the industry’s conclusions. “It wasn’t based on any valid assumptions,” she said. Under the legislation, the maximum penalty for a family that does not purchase coverage “would start at $200 in 2014 and rise to $800 in 2017“; people who have to pay more than 8 percent of their adjusted gross income for the cheapest available insurance plan “would not be required to purchase it.”
Snowe’s status as the only Republican to support health care reform will likely bolster her position at the bargaining table; Democrats will have to maintain Snowe’s vote as reform moves froward. Snowe will now be part of the discussions that merge the Finance bill with the HELP bill and conference. Before announcing her vote, Snowe registered her opposition to some Medicare cuts, insisted that the CBO score the final legislative language before the Senate votes on the bill, and argued that the final bill should be posted online so that Americans can review the final legislation.
Snowe preserved her leverage by stressing that her vote in committee does not guarantee that she will vote for the final bill. “I say, my vote today is my vote today. It does not forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.”