Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 22, 2009

SNOWE FALLS ON OPT-OUT COMPROMISE.... The opt-out compromise on the public option seems to be gaining some momentum. Brian Beutler asked Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) this afternoon if it's a proposal she might be able to support.

"I don't support that," Snowe said.

Asked further whether she would participate in a filibuster on a bill with a public option, she went almost all the way.

"I've said, I'm against a public option...yes...it would be difficult" to support allowing the bill to proceed to a vote.

For all the talk about Snowe's moderation and commitment to reform, she's still a Republican opposed to the idea of insurance companies facing competition and giving Americans a choice.

Indeed, it's worth appreciating how extreme Snowe's position really is. Most Americans like the idea of giving eligible consumers a choice between a private and a public insurance plan. Snowe doesn't want consumers to have the choice. As a compromise, Democrats have said states would have the option of not participating in the public insurance plan. Snowe doesn't want states to have the choice to give its residents a choice.

And Snowe's opposition is so intense, she's inclined to stop the Senate from even considering the bill at all, even if a majority of the country and a majority of the Congress thinks it's a worthwhile idea.

But if Dems agreed to put off the public option until some vague and undefined "trigger" standards kick in, then Snowe might agree to let the Senate vote on health care reform.

This just isn't rational. Snowe has demonstrated a genuine interest in health care reform, and that's admirable. But she's willing to defeat a bill she would otherwise consider based on a single provision that most Americans wouldn't be eligible for anyway? Is the popular policy idea really so offensive that it's worth killing the entire initiative, decades in the making, and letting this once-in-a-generation opportunity pass?

As Matt Yglesias asked last week, "Are moderate members really so fanatically devoted to the interests of private health insurance companies that they would take a package they otherwise support and kill it purely in order to do the industry's bidding on one point?"

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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The best way to answer Matt's question is to put it to a vote. No triggers, no opt out, just a public option available to all.

If they want to stand against it, let them put their name on the line.

Posted by: doubtful on October 22, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, as I and others keep repeating, the opt-out compromise vs. the trigger is like a shit sandwich on wheat vs. a shit sandwich on rye.

If I were Harry Reid, I'd forget about getting 60 votes and forget about getting cloture. Reconciliation (50 plus Biden) is the answer.

Posted by: Chris on October 22, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

As Matt Yglesias asked last week, "Are moderate members really so fanatically devoted to the interests of private health insurance companies that they would take a package they otherwise support and kill it purely in order to do the industry's bidding on one point?"

Yessirree,,, You Betcha

Posted by: cwolf on October 22, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK
If I were Harry Reid, I'd forget about getting 60 votes and forget about getting cloture. Reconciliation (50 plus Biden) is the answer.

And fire the fucking parliamentarian if he makes trouble. The Repigs already set that precedent.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on October 22, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

As Matt Yglesias asked last week, "Are moderate members really so fanatically devoted to the interests of private health insurance companies that they would take a package they otherwise support and kill it purely in order to do the industry's bidding on one point?"

1) Who the fuck is a moderate? Not Snow! Unless you want to classify someone not completely part of the Steve King / Michell Bachmann wing as a moderate!

2) Yes and No.
- Yes. The rethugs and the corporate dumbocraps are ready to do the industry's bidding.
- No. The even bigger reason to defeat healthcare reform is to 'defeat the enemy' - Obama.

Every good rethug knows that they are facing the greatest threat and great peril in the history of our country - A black democrat president!

Posted by: SadOldVet on October 22, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Snowe implies (but does not say) she could support a fillibuster. It's time to call their bluff.

The general public claims support for the idea of the public option, even if the result is partisan split.

Health care reform is a moving train, and I can't imagine that any but the most patisan of legistators wants to step in front of that train now.

I think "doubtful" is right. They should just put the public option on the the bill see which Democratic (and moderate) Senators blink.

Posted by: Jim G on October 22, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Its not that he's being irrational. She's being immoral. There's a difference.

The old cunt is willing to let 45,000 people die every year to preserve insurance company profits.

Immoral.

Posted by: The Fool on October 22, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

The Titanic is sinking but Snowe figures to be one of the one's on the life boats.

What does she care for those left behind? A sentimental memory, perhaps?


Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 22, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed, it's worth appreciating how extreme Snowe's position really is.

I wish you could see how extreme your position really is.

Most Americans like a public option when you word a poll one way and don't want it when you word the poll another way.

Right now we have more Democrats in the Senate that we have had in your lifetime. (OK, I am guessing at your age, I could be wrong.)

We can't get 60 Democrats to get to the right of Snowe right now.

So you are saying that the right side of the Democrats caucus is "extreme".

FWIW, I want a single payer system like Canada or England. I grew up in Ontario and my first daughter was born south of London. I suppose my view of wanting a single payer system is extreme since a significant majority of Americans disagree with me.

Calling me Extreme might be acceptable. Calling Snowe extreme is EXTREMELY STUPID

Posted by: neil wilson on October 22, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

In response to Yglesias's question, it doesn't surprise me that Snowe is doing this. She's not a serious politician. Most of her (and Sue Collins') decisions aren't made based on facts or projections, but rather based on some sort of arbitrary internal governor of whether something is "too conservative" or "too liberal". I'd rather have a centrist like Scoop Jackson than one like Olympia Snowe is all I'm saying. And I doubt she'll be able to back down now--she's put her neck on the line for this, and she's more popular among Dems than Reps in ME now. She torpedoes healthcare, she's done politically.

Posted by: Lev on October 22, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

It's long past time for Democrats in Washington, D.C. to recall an old Persian proverb, "Dogs bark; the caravan passes" - and act accordingly.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on October 22, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Basic Poker 101

What doubtful said in the top spot.

The public option is now a winning hand.
We the people want it. And there are no more cards to deal.

It is just basic poker gamesmanship now: All chips in.
You force those with losing hands to pay dearly to stay in the game.

Posted by: koreyel on October 22, 2009 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

If Steve Benen reads this comment, I would be interested to know why budget reconcillation is not being pursued. Is there a procedural/legal obstacle to do so? I don't recall seeing reconcilliation being discussed in this blog for quite awhile.

Posted by: CalStateDisneyland on October 22, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

In the meantime, 2 companies, JUST TWO, control the health insurance market in her state.

That's the republican idea of competition. A locked up market.

A pox on Senator Snowe.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on October 22, 2009 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Worth pointing out there's irrational extremism on both sides. Case in point, "...the opt-out compromise vs. the trigger is like a shit sandwich on wheat vs. a shit sandwich on rye..." in the second letter.

Any state government that opts out, even that of South Carolina, risks the wrath of its screwed citizenry. That can only be good for the country in the longterm. Obama has said he wants to change the way Americans look at things. That'll do it.

And Snowe is Grassley with a skirt and a smile.

Posted by: ericfree on October 22, 2009 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

ericfree,

Actually, Chris wrote a very passionate rebuttal to that line of thinking on an earlier thread.

I tend to disagree with the premise that people won't change how they vote over something like this, but if you accept that as a possibility, some of what Chris says is true.

Still, the opt-in plan would provide coverage to many who would otherwise not have it and certainly make detractors put-up or shut-up.

Posted by: doubtful on October 22, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

As above, Young Mattie's "be-ye-now-rhetorical question:

As Matt Yglesias asked last week, "Are moderate members really so fanatically devoted to the interests of private health insurance companies that they would take a package they otherwise support and kill it purely in order to do the industry's bidding on one point?"

Hell yeah they will. They are sittin' in the corporate pocket -- the BACK pocket -- puckered up and kissin' ass.

We are at war with the corproations, and we have traitors in Washington. Snowe -- it is to laugh -- is so bought by the corrupt corporations, Come on...

Posted by: neill on October 22, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

"This just isn't rational"

And what was it about the R after her name that you didn't understand?

Posted by: Cal Gal on October 22, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

I still can't believe these assholes spent so much time trying to get this ditzy person on board, all in the name of bi-partisanship ? I say fuck bi-partisanship. It's time to play hardball and get the god damned thing passed with the strongest possible protections for the middle class. This shit needs to stop. Time for Obama to spend some capital and shove this thing up the republicans' asses.

Posted by: rbe1 on October 22, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

She torpedoes healthcare, she's done politically.

She torpedoes health care, she wins re-election -- provided she even runs, instead of retiring, which is a persistent rumor up here -- 55-45 instead of 70-30. That's the operational definition of 'done politically' in this instance.

She can basically tap-dance naked down the Mall, and count on keeping her seat.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 22, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I still can't believe these assholes spent so much time trying to get this ditzy person on board... -rbe1

All they did was give this fool the relevancy necessary to make headlines when she rejected it.

Posted by: doubtful on October 22, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"I've said, I'm against a public option...yes...it would be difficult" to support allowing the bill to proceed to a vote.

Note the question of procedure lies frustratingly OUTSIDE the statement -- Snowe & everyone else needs to be forced into answering this question head on, explicitly; get them on record for their support, great, but also ask why they are actively pursing a strategy that denies even a vote on the bill. It is ABSURD.

Posted by: jerbo on October 22, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

" a single provision that most Americans wouldn't be eligible for anyway? " ?!?

Look legislators are very eager to force people in other states to subsidize insurance companies, but I don't think they will be so eager to block access to the public option for people in their own state. I'm sure Snowe really really wants people in California to not have the public option. However, with an opt out, she will have no control over that.

State Government in Purplenois could easily be bought by the insurance industry if the issue were forcing people in BlueYork to pay high premia. Not so much if they are decided only on whether to force their own consituents to fork over.

I think few states would actually opt out and they would opt back in when people got angry that premia are lower across the state line.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on October 22, 2009 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

The thought just occurred to me reading Landrieu's wail that the public option would bankrupt the US that insurance companies make a pile of money. The US would have much lower administrative costs because the people running wouldn't be so into greed as the insurance companies. So if the insurance companies can make money faster than the US mint, why on earth would anyone think that running an insurance company would break the US.

This needs to be pointed out to Snowe, that competition is the thing that is going to bring the situation under some control, and if she opposes competition, then nothing will ever be solved.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on October 22, 2009 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

"This just isn't rational"

It's not rational from a policy perspective, but it's not intended to be. It's rational from Snowe's perspective because it helps in her attempt to appear to be on every Mainer's side, no matter what side of the aisle they're on. She can tell people on one side that she's in favor of health care reform, while taking credit on the other side for stopping it.

That's always been Snowe's schtick (and make no mistake, it *is* a schtick), and it's why she's managed to survive as a Republican senator in a relatively blue state. It's Collins' schtick also, but she's not nearly as good at it as Snowe is.

Posted by: bucky on October 22, 2009 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK
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