Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Three Ways to Look at the Snowe Vote

Today's Senate Finance Committee vote brought one of the versions of the health care reform bill to the floor of the Senate. The vote itself was along party lines, save for one Republican who voted in favor of it: Olympia Snowe of Maine. This decision overjoyed, confounded, and angered many people, but I have a different take. Or, more precisely, three.

First, the Democrats will treat Snowe's vote like a banner proclaiming "We're bipartisan!" In actuality, however, it's more like a fig leaf than a banner because one Republican vote does not a bipartisan bill make. All it does it make Snowe look like a turncoat to the GOP. (Whether she is will be seen in the coming weeks, but we'll discuss that in a bit.) If the Democrats push through the health care reform bill without Republican help, the Snowe vote will not mean much and won't provide much cover. It will still be a Democrat-lead vote, and they'll get all the praise or blame.

In Snowe's case, though, her vote is understandable, given her state. As of this writing, over 60% of Maine residents favor some sort of health care reform with a public option. Snowe's vote is consistent with her state's principles and her own. Regardless of what happens with the final vote, Snowe has secured her position in Maine by doing what her state wants her to do. In that way, her vote is like an acorn (no, not that ACORN) because she hopes it will grow into a larger, stronger idea, one that will help everyone.

Then again, Snowe's vote to bring the bill out to the full Senate might be a blessing in disguise for Republicans. The longer the health care reform debate rages, the less likely it looks like it will pass. By getting the bill out to the Senate, Snowe may have helped defeat it because there will be more debate of it. More debate means more time spent on it. More time spent means less support as people either read the proposed reforms and get angry or they tune it out completely. So, what exactly does this make Snowe's vote?

Possibly the straw that broke the camel's back.

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