Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2009

APPLYING HEAT TO SNOWE.... There's plenty of rhetoric from Republicans on the Hill about the need for Democrats to reach out to GOP lawmakers to negotiate on health care reform. The talk has long been rather silly -- nearly all of the Republican caucus opposes reform. Talks with Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi dragged on for months, even when it became obvious they weren't negotiating in good faith.

For that matter, Democrats continue to invest considerable time and energy in wooing Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine -- arguably the only Republican in Congress who seems sincerely interested in passing a bill -- and her caucus is almost desperate to see those talks end.

That puts the pressure squarely on Snowe, the three-term Maine moderate who has been at the center of the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan Gang of Six negotiations -- and who is widely considered to be the Republican most likely to jump ship. "Everybody's praying she won't," says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Some Republicans are doing more than praying. Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said it would be "naive" and "very foolish" for any GOP senator to allow a Democratic proposal to advance, because the Democrats would ultimately change the bill to their liking in conference committee.

"It would be terrible if one Republican chose to basically sell out the whole [Republican] Conference, particularly in return for some naive idea that we can get some compromise here and that it's going to hold up in [a House-Senate] conference."

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said he didn't want to speculate how much backlash Snowe would receive from her caucus if she were the lone GOP senator to support the plan -- but he also made clear that a lone defector would be in a tough spot.

"Except to say this: If Republicans are unanimous or maybe unanimous but one -- that puts a real spotlight on anybody who does differ from all of their colleagues," Kyl said.

If senators are willing to use phrases like "sell out the whole conference" on the record, it's safe to assume the pressure Snowe is feeling to reject reform, even if Democrats shape the bill exactly to her liking, is even more intense behind the scenes.

Snowe has faced this kind of pressure before, and given Maine's left-leaning ways, it's likely the senator will face at least as much lobbying from her constituents in the other direction.

But one thing to keep in mind is that the Senate Republican caucus, unlike Senate Dems, have mechanisms in place to enforce party unity and discipline. When Democrats break party ranks on key bills, there are no consequences. Those who let GOP leaders down, however, know in advance that enticements like committee positions are very much on the line. Rumor has it that Grassley began trashing reform more aggressively in August when his Republican colleagues made it clear that his future assignments were in jeopardy if he worked with Dems to pass a reform bill.

Snowe, in other words, may very well be punished for doing the right thing. And she knows it.

Another possible angle to consider: if state lawmakers in Massachusetts change the law and an interim Democratic senator brings the majority back to 60, how would this change the negotiations?

Steve Benen 1:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

"Snowe, in other words, may very well be punished for doing the right thing. And she knows it."

If she really did the right thing, she'd be rewarded for switching sides and becoming a Democrat

Posted by: Saint Zak on September 17, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Let's hope Snowe DOESN'T SUPPORT HCR

That will make HCR a DEMOCRATIC Initiative
Hopefully, we'll use Reconciliation to push a Democratic plan

Hopefully, Barack will notice that Republicans don't want to play Bi-Partisan

Make sure HCR STARTS BEFORE Nov 2010 !!
At least the important provisions !!

Posted by: MSierra, SF on September 17, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Keep in mind that the Dem's 60 votes would have to include Lieberman. Does anyone know how likely it is that he would support a Republican filibuster?

Posted by: atlliberal on September 17, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

+1 Saint Zak

I can't imagine why she would continue to cast her lot with these freaks. I see nothing good that can come of it from her perspective. Either she pisses off her political masters or pisses off her constituents. Maybe she thinks she can triangulate and keep winning elections and keeping her seniority. There has to be a ME Democrat to prove her wrong.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 17, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

They would all, Rs & Ds, allow their children to die before they would stand for principle. I am disgusted with the whole lot of them. And, the media is the same. She me one MSM (I exclude Amy Goodman and Bill Moyers) "journalist" who has any courage and I'll eat my words. Even Olbermann & Maddow are still working for NBC, so they must not have challenged their bosses for they lies.

Posted by: st john on September 17, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The danger for the GOP is that we could soon be referring to Olympia Snowe (I-ME). I don't see her pulling a Specter, but the Lieberman route may be promising if DeMint and his ilk put too much pressure on her.

Posted by: danimal on September 17, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Keep in mind that the Dem's 60 votes would have to include Lieberman. Does anyone know how likely it is that he would support a Republican filibuster?

Posted by: atlliberal

Nelson has said he's open to filibustering a public option, Bayh hinted at same. Lieberman would do it just for the attention. And that's just north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Posted by: Jim on September 17, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't just say "fuck them" and go Dem?

Posted by: Jay on September 17, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

There but for the grace of god goes Lieberman

Those who let GOP leaders down, however, know in advance that enticements like committee positions are very much on the line.
Posted by: koreyel on September 17, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Reconciliation is the only way descent reform will pass. Can we stop all the speculation and just write a liberal plan that makes their heads explode, then use reconciliation to get it passed.

The more Americans we effect with good legislation the stronger our party will sit come election time. And of course, it's the right thing to do.

I am tired of nobodies like Baucus & Snowe wielding untold power of millions of Americans.

Posted by: ScottW on September 17, 2009 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK
MSierra, SF@1:29: Let's hope Snowe DOESN'T SUPPORT HCR

That will make HCR a DEMOCRATIC Initiative

Make sure HCR STARTS BEFORE Nov 2010 !!

MSierra, I thought from your last post that your overuse of CAPS was on the wane. I see now how terribly wrong I was. ;o)

Posted by: JTK on September 17, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Why does Senator Snowe continue the uphill battle of aligning with a party that is increasingly a fringe-right party if she comes from a "left-leaning" state? Is her loyalty simply due to what New Englanders call "sheer cussidness", or does she think she can single-handedly bring moderation to a party that is increasingly guided by loons?

Posted by: Observer in SC on September 17, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't just say "fuck them" and go Dem?

Posted by: Jay

She's got more money than god, and could probably get any office Obama has for the asking, at this point. If what has leaked to the public is any indication, she's frequently bullied and insulted by her colleagues. I really don't get her.

I can only assume the sentimental fantasy of 'Main Street'/Eisenhower conservatism is a powerful one.

Posted by: Jim on September 17, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Baucus' bill is a bad bill, so it would be a bad idea for her to support it. But then since the entire Republican Party thinks her support would be a bad idea, maybe it's a good idea for her to support it. I'm so confused.

Posted by: Christopher on September 17, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Snowe isn't subject to pressure, full stop. She can switch from (R) to (I) and write her own ticket with Democrats. She got a majority of Republican AND Democratic votes cast in her last election. She can do what she wants. You have a lot of freedom when you win 74% of the vote.

Posted by: joefjoejoe on September 17, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

If Mass. doesn't come through, and I don't think it even matters anyway because of other obstructionist DINOs like Nelson and Conrad, then it's time for reconciliation NOW. Check out Obama's speech today, unequivical support for the public option, with the crowd cheering him and booing Baucus.
There is simply no other way, and I am so far beyond sick of this bullshit need for 60 votes and "bipartisanship" that hinges on one prima donna Senator from a state representing 1% of the population.
I love Maine, spent a summer up there during my youth, but this is f-ing ridiculous. She's not even representing what her constituents want anyway, so screw her. And I've said it before, screw Conrad, Nelson, Bayh, and Lieberman as well. We still got 50 + 1 to pass real reform.
RECONCILIATION NOW!

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 17, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

An even more plausible angle to consider: Snowe gets whacked by the GOP caucus, and becomes an independent who votes with Democrats.

Posted by: allbetsareoff on September 17, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

You have a lot of freedom when you win 74% of the vote.

That was then, this is now. See what the her numbers look like once she becomes known as the number one obstructionist to HCR, for no other reason than pure politics and a failed ideology.
I guarantee the voters in ME won't like it at all.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 17, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

It is so funny to watch Steve and everyone else change their arguments when the shoe is on the other foot.

Snowe is being pressured by Republicans to support the Republican position. That is so wrong.

Bayh and Nelson and others MUST vote for cloture because they are Democrats.

Like it or not, you can't get to 60 without a Republican.

Don't act like the rightwing jerks who say that anything they do is OK cause, well because they are REAL AMERICANS. Act like a real American and treat people the same whether they are in the majority or the minority.

We need a Republican or we need reconciliation. I ain't a Republican troll. I am just someone who can count to 60 and knows the difference between getting a majority and getting a super majority.

Posted by: neil wilson on September 17, 2009 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

The only heat we should apply to Snowe is to build a fire under her ass and send her back to the GOP where she truly belongs. I just don't see any evidence that the woman has ever demonstrated the slighest comprehension of the issues she has been courted to vote on.

Posted by: rbe1 on September 17, 2009 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Act like a real American and treat people the same whether they are in the majority or the minority.

That's what we're doing. Nelson and Bayh and Lieberman are choosing to side with the minority. That's fine. We're just asking them to allow the majority to rule, rather than super-majority, which is de facto minority rule, which is unconstitutional .

Posted by: Jim on September 17, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

A single Republican "yes" vote will not make this a bipartisan bill. Obama & co. have wasted far too much energy on this.

Posted by: qwerty on September 17, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

I have read interviews to the effect that Snowe still sees herself as the voice crying in the wilderness who will one day bring the Republican party closer to the center so that we can once again have two reasonably moderate parties with principled differences.

It must be a powerful dream because it sure doesn't look like it would happen in her lifetime. Collins, on the other hand, is just a tool.

Posted by: Barbara on September 17, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

We need a Republican or we need reconciliation. I ain't a Republican troll. I am just someone who can count to 60 and knows the difference between getting a majority and getting a super majority.

That's why I said it's time for reconciliation, because we aren't ever going to get anywhere trying to entice one prima donna Repub in the name of "bipartisanship". For the love of God, does anyone think that any bill is going to be any more popular or not just because one f-ing Senator from the minority supports it?? Anyone outside the MSM corps of villagers?
This issue is far too important, and far too many people are dying in this broken system to thwart the will of the majority. Screw Snowe and any Dems who are actually willing to prevent a vote. We can still lose 9 Dems and pass REAL reform through reconciliation.
It is abundantly clear at this point that a bill which actually manages to get the support of even one Repub will only accomplish what I thought would be impossible--make our healthcare system even worse, and completely destroy the middle class in the process.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 17, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

this is just silly the constitution says only 51 votes are needed to pass a bill on to either the house or president 50 senators plus the vice president is 51 if the republicans want to filibuster let them 24/7 just let them talk and talk until Christmas New Years let them tie up the entire country but never give them a break just make sure it is a very good bill with either a public option or a nationwide coop not 50 experiments

Posted by: keith loomis on September 17, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

We need a Republican or we need reconciliation.

No, we need a Republican on cloture or go to reconciliation. It's distressing how many on our side have fallen into the "everything needs 60 votes to pass" trap, just like the media. The question is not "will Snowe vote for it," but "will Snowe (and Lieberman) support a filibuster." They should be asked repeatedly of they're going to filibuster health care reform to death just because they don't agree with everything in the bill.

If they're willing to vote for cloture, then they (and most of the so-called "centrist" conservadems) can save face by voting against the actual bill.

Posted by: Redshift on September 17, 2009 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

We need a Republican or we need reconciliation.

No, we need a Republican on cloture or go to reconciliation.
++++++++
That is a distinction without a difference.

In the real world, where I live, we need a Republican or reconciliation. In the dream world where you live you think the Republican Party will allow an up or down vote.

Posted by: neil wilson on September 17, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Keith, let's make them physically continue the debate on the floor. No other Senate business until debate on health care reform has concluded and a vote has been taken. If they want to continue the debate, they gotta get out there and do it. Americans would recognize it as the obstructionism it is and respond accordingly. The "60 votes for cloture' thing goes right over every bodies head.

Posted by: sceptic on September 17, 2009 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Having 59 votes helps put the pressure on Snowe to still cooperate. If Dems have 60 votes then it will be easier for her to back out of negotiations because they don't technically NEED her vote. By being the decisive 60th vote she can claim that she was THE U.S. Senator who transformed history and made health care a reality for the first time in 80+ years. If Dems have 60 votes it's harder for her to make that claim and easier for the Republicans to have the leverage to say she's "selling out"

Posted by: hillery on September 17, 2009 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK
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