If Olympia Snowe is genuinely both seriously considering embracing health reform and integral to reform’s prospects then doesn’t it seem like in some ways the winning legislative strategy is not so much to haggle over substantive points as to just haggle over pork? After all, we’re talking about an enormous bill — tens of billions of dollars a year in spending, plus tons of regulatory changes — and Snowe represents a very small state.
Maybe we want to spend $1 billion to build a new Comparative Effective Research Center in Portland? I like comparative effectiveness research. And it has to be done somewhere, right? And Portland’s nice. Or we could subsidize lobstermen. Or mandate that all insurers cover logging-related injuries. It’s understandable, I suppose, that Snowe is reluctant to be the only Republican who votes for a reform bill. But it becomes a lot easier to cast that vote if you can legitimately say that voting no would be turning down a great opportunity for your state.