Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 20, 2009

SNOWE'S WEAK EXCUSE.... By all appearances, the White House, from the outset, made an effort to garner bipartisan support for health care reform. At least in the Senate, that now appears impossible. Democrats no longer need Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-Maine) vote, but they sought it out anyway, to no avail.

Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican who had been considered a possible Democratic ally, said she would oppose the measure because it was being rushed. "It is a take-it-or-leave-it package," she said.

I just can't figure out what on earth Snowe is talking about. She voted with Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee reform plan, but now appears to be looking for an excuse to oppose the effort. But to sound even remotely credible, Snowe will have to do better than this.

For one thing, it's a "take-it-or-leave-it package"? Democrats have been willing to give Snowe just about anything she asked for. That's the opposite of a "take-it-or-leave-it package."

For another, nothing about this has been "rushed." Snowe has been complaining about the speed of the legislative process since July, but therein lies the point: how could this possibly get slower?

Congress and the White House have been debating health care reform since about March. It was debated last year during the presidential campaign. It was debated the year before during the presidential primaries. It was debated at length during the Clinton reform effort, which followed previous debates during previous presidents' efforts. America has been debating health care reform, off and on, since the days of Harry Truman.

Support the bill or don't, but complaining about speed is silly.

Just two months ago, when Snowe broke with her party and supported the Baucus health care bill, she said, "Is this bill all that I would want? Far from it. But when history calls, history calls."

History is still calling, and Snowe has decided to let it ring. She can't, however, seem to explain why.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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The plan is half-baked and should not become law. It might sound fair on the very surface, but beneath that it is extremely unfair. People almost at random will benefit; and people almost at random will pay amounts like $10,000 more per year for insurance they know they don't need. The elitist hacks who back this plan should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: anon on December 20, 2009 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

I think this is simply pragmatic. With 60 votes seemingly in-hand, why stick her neck out and get all that nasty email and phone calls from the Teabaggers? She already got that once.

And if someone breaks ranks? Well, that's the Dem's lookout. If they can't count right, that's their problem.

Posted by: MichMan on December 20, 2009 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

It might just be possible that Let it Snow , watch me lie , Let it die , Let it go , prefers her lie about a serious issue , that need stain her soul by that lie , must have the cute little lie pose prettily on the way to the grave .

Posted by: FRP on December 20, 2009 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Good story about the total weakness of Snowe's arguments. However, we shouldn't be fooled into taking them for real, as if Snowe actually believes int the crap she is saying pubicly. It's obvious that her actions are primarily driven by party interest and strategic considerations. To say it shortly: She's totally dishonest.

Posted by: Gray on December 20, 2009 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Presumably the main thing here is trying to avoid a primary challenge.

Posted by: John on December 20, 2009 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

I can't even imagine what it must be like to be Sen. Snowe right now... I'm not on her side, but I would think party leaders are making some pretty serious threats toward her, should she decide to vote for this bill.

Posted by: pol on December 20, 2009 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Poor Senator Snowe is now hated by both parties and will lose her next primary whether she runs as a Dem or GOP. That's one less liar in the Senate - too bad she can't take the other 99 with her.

Posted by: anonymous on December 20, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, anon @ 8:35, her constituents probably just "love" her and won't know or care how she votes on this bill. She's been around Congress for a long time, and people will vote for her because she's held the job so long.

Posted by: pol on December 20, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, any by the way anon - this only works (as with any insurance group) if "...people almost at random will pay amounts like $10,000 more per year for insurance they know they don't need." And there's nothing random about it despite the best efforts of the Republicans to introduce random rules.

First off, insurance is always something you don't need - until you do. Many years ago, when I was young and presumably "didn't need it" I was willing to go without health insurance. But back then the cost of treatment was an order of magnitude cheaper. Now, even a relatively simply diagnostic test can cost $1000 - I know because I recently had an MRI on my knee and the cost of the tech+MRI was that much before a radiologist looked at it. If an 18-year old gets into a car accident (far more likely than I am to do so), then the costs can reach over $1 million in a bad case.

Secondly, the cost of insurance is spread across the entire insured population. If only the old or sickly are covered, the cost per person is too expensive. This is true for a company or a country. For it to work, as large a population as possible has to participate. And when an uninsured person draws heavily on healthcare, it is paid for by everyone.

But beyond the actuarial reasons, and the humanitarian reasons, there is a simple societal reason why we need this: jobs. I live in Michigan and when the auto companies started moving jobs to Canada because paying Canadian taxes for workers was cheaper than paying healthcare for workers in this country, I knew something would have to change. This would have been completely unthinkable only a few years ago: That American companies would move work to "socialist" Canada because it was cheaper. Note too that this is not because our taxes are too high, it's because our healthcare costs too much.

The surprise is not that this is going to pass (fingers crossed), but that it's so close. Of course it really shouldn't be close if the Republicans hadn't made it into a political game in hopes that it would become Obama's Waterloo. And in reality, it won't be close once a vote is allowed.

Posted by: MichMan on December 20, 2009 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

"The insurance companies were probably among the merriest of industries last week."

"But the drug companies were certainly joyful, too."


So how does the continued, fanatical Republican opposition to the bill make any sense in terms of ingratiating themselves with these corporations?
The Republicans have lost the educated vote, and now they seem to be losing the corporate vote, as well.

Posted by: bob h on December 20, 2009 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

But when history calls, history calls.

maybe history is over?

Or maybe snowe got all the political mileage out of the bill that she expects to get or needs so she goes back to pure obstruction mode with the rest of her party.

Posted by: pluege on December 20, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

"but I would think party leaders are making some pretty serious threats toward her, should she decide to vote for this bill."

And, what? Not give her keys to the Republican Tree House? It's unsurprising if the Democrats lose ground in the senate at the next election, but an R majority would be surprising indeed. What do they have to offer her? Unless she has some incredible personal antipathy to having a D next to her name (I guess I would prefer SnoweR to SnoweD), she could easily jump to the D party if they might life too tough on her.

Posted by: dr2chase on December 20, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how long the debate to go to war with Iraq lasted. Or was it pushed down the throats of the American people?

Surely we would spend equal time debating an issue just as costly in money and lives as this health care bill? /snark

Posted by: Gridlock on December 20, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Only Olympia has the wisdom to see her historic role in supporting health care reform at this moment, but alas, she is looking in all the wrong places! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 20, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. Snow's problem is the people of Maine are left wondering why Vermont got the sweetheart deal and they are left in the cold. The two super liberals from Vermont must have objected to the deal Nelson cut for Nebraska and claimed it for Vermont as well. Sen. Snow was not at the trough at the right time. Too bad for her and the Pine Tree State.

These deals for Nebraska and Vermont should have everyone in the other 48 incensed.

Posted by: Jeff L on December 20, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter whether they are "conservative" Republicans or "moderate" Republicans - the fact is they are Republicans. In other words, morons, idiots, fools, etc. Snowe is the best proof that even the "best" Republican really only becomes a "good Republican" when they exit the scene.

Posted by: TCinLA on December 20, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Bob h, the Repubs think about electoral strategy. This Bill gives insurance companies lots of goodies, but the companies would have liked the status quo so it's roughly a wash for them. But:
1. The Repubs can pin distaste for the Bill on the Dems.
2. Corporations will fund the Repubs since the latter will try to gut regulations in this Bill etc., making things even better for those companies/

Posted by: neil b on December 20, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Look, this is pretty simple: Snowe's trying to play it both ways by voting for the bill once, against it a second time, and claiming she's for it (sort of) but the process is too fast. Pretty basic Senatorial baloney.

Posted by: jimmy on December 20, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Bottom line, Snowe was not about to be manipulated and co-opted into voting for this putrid piece of crap, just so that the Dems could claim that it was "bipartisan." I give her a lot of credit for staying engaged in the process for as long as she did, even after it became apparent that the Democrats were determined to pass a bill that would raise costs and cut benefits.

Posted by: Priscilla on December 20, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen's mistake is his gross simplification of the legislative process. No self-respecting political journalist can comment on the speed of the process without acknowledging Majority Leader Reid's manager amendment, which was a secret not only to Snowe, but much of his own party until yesterday.

The bill has been modified countless times. Sen. Snowe should not be blamed for criticizing the Democrats for demanding a vote within a week of Reid's 383 page amendment being released.

Posted by: Mitchell on December 20, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Maine aint Mississippi. Snowe and Collins need to stop using such flimsy excuses to vote against the bill. No public option, no buy in to Medicare, no prexisting guarantee for coverage until 2014. Everything these two ladies wanted, so lift up your skirts girls and take one for the national interest and the 30 million who will finally get healthcare.

Posted by: Greg on December 20, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Mitchell's argument might have some value except that most of the elements in Reid's ammendment were part of the bills passed by the HELP or Finance committees. Any new elements are relatively minor and a week is more than enough time for anyone seriously interested in the merits of the bill to research and consider them.

Posted by: tanstaafl on December 20, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Maine is one of the poorest states in the Union. There is high poverty, unemployment and underemployment
The rural Maine hospital I worked in had 80% of its patients medicare of medicaid.

I wonder how long it will take Maine to figure out the their own personal state death panel is lead by Snowe and Collins?

Posted by: Marnie on December 20, 2009 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

She will campaign next time saying that she was for health care reform before she was against it. There is no such thing as a moderate republican anymore- Snowe is just as much a blight as Palin.

Posted by: snowman on December 20, 2009 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Could we remember one issue here - she won't even vote to end the debate!! Fine if she doesn;t want to vote for it, but for goodness sakes, let the vote go forward! And .... I have NO sympathy for the " its too rushed" BS. THis thing has been debated for MONTHS; Snowe and the rest have a bunch of smarty pants aides that can rip though 700 pages [remember, these are legislative pages, NOT real pages] in 3 hrs. IF they did that, they at least would know what it is like for the rest of us when we try to read all the clauses in our health insurance policies, if we have one.

Posted by: bigwisc on December 20, 2009 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Our Polity overfloweth with people like Snowe, Lieberman, McCain, Nelson, Grassley, Collins, Bayh, Graham....

These are men and women who say they know that a Nation cannot exist without some kinds of compromise and some kinds of working with people of different views for the Common Good and yet they willingly assassinate their own Nation over and over again for self-aggrandizement and personal fortune.

30 pieces of silver & these people betray everything and everybody.

And where the GOP is starting to sprout totalitarian off-spring, the Democrats are often so craven and cowardly that they mimic Snowe.

It will be a miracle if democracy does no disappear in the next twenty five years because the Right has long made governing impossible and our problems are not going away. Sooner or later we will have 5 retired people for every worker, and those who are workers will be so underpaid and underrepresented by their senators and congresspeople that they will explode.

I am not a Cassandra and I never want to live through a revolution nor any major upheaval, but we do not have a serious culture, we have a seriously weakened Polity, and our problems are huge.

Posted by: tomcj on December 20, 2009 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Jimmy got it right; Snowe is trying to be all things to all people. She can tell the GOP that she voted against it, while pointing to earlier support for a version of the bill while courting Dems. It's her entire schtick, and has been for years.

Posted by: bucky on December 20, 2009 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Who is to blame for voting for feckless politicians? Snowe and Collins are completely worthless, but who actually stands by any principle any longer. Casey and Nelson are supposed to be pro-life but for enough $, they can overlook a little bit of abortion. BTW: why so much whining about the GOP not cooperating? The Dems control both houses with healthy majorities - if they had written such an abominable piece of legislation, they'd be able to pass it without the GOP. Bi-partisan? What a joke- the whole thing was written behind closed doors without any Republicans allowed in the room. This debacle is the Dems and the Dem's only. The party will pay for it for a very long time.

Posted by: Jeff B on December 21, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, the nerve of people like Snowe, not voting for bad legislation. Maybe if Harry Reid promised that people in Maine didn't have to pay Medicare premiums then they would have had her vote. As to it being rushed, I imagine she has a good point about passing a bill that nobody has read.

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Posted by: Bridget on March 4, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK



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