Tags: snowe | healthcare | vote

Snowe: I Could Change My Vote

Wednesday, 14 Oct 2009 11:23 AM

By David A. Patten

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Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe has told President Obama she's worried the healthcare reform bill that she voted for on Tuesday will be amended to conform to a more left-leaning agenda – and if it is, Snowe may vote against it.

Speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, Snowe said that if the public option is added to the measure that ultimately comes to the Senate floor, her vote would become "problematic."

Snowe broke ranks with Republican opposition to the administration's healthcare proposals on Tuesday, joining Democrats to pass a reform bill out of the Senate Finance Committee by a 14 to 9 vote. In doing so, Snowe specified that her yes vote applied only to that bill, and not to the more drastic measures supported by liberal Democrats.

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The Senate Finance bill is the only version of healthcare reform making its way through Congress that does not propose a public option – essentially, a government-run insurance plan.

It will now be up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to meld the two different Senate versions of the legislation into one bill.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been engaged in intensive discussions with Reid and other leading Democratic senators over whether the public option should be merged into the bill the Senate will vote on.

NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd reports the administration is thought to prefer leaving the public option out of the bill initially. Under that scenario, once the bill is introduced Reid would open the bill up for possible amendments. A public option then would be added if there were sufficient votes.

Snowe has supported an alternative to the full-blown public option, called the public-option "trigger." Under that proposal, if the insurance industry failed to meet certain benchmarks ensuring adequate competition, a government-run plan would be take effect. Reid recently told the Las Vegas Sun that the trigger concept is "a pretty doggone good idea."

Asked by co-host Mika Brzezinski what changes would be a "deal breaker" for her as the bill moves through Reid's office, Snowe replied, "It would be greater cost, frankly, and if we expand this bill immeasurably, because that's important. Secondly, going outside of the the healthcare system to finance things, because we want to keep it contained within the healthcare system.

"The public option would be problematic," she continued. "As I've said, I'm against a public option because I think the government would be another vast bureaucracy, and also create a disproportionate advantage in the marketplace. And inevitably, government's not going to do it better and it's going to be more costly."

Columnist and Morning Joe regular Patrick J. Buchanan then asked Snowe if it weren't "almost an inevitability" that as the bill moves through Democratic-controlled Congress it would be pulled farther and farther to the left.

"Well, I hope not," Snowe replied. "I mentioned that to the president, because I think it's important to keep it to the center, and to work with other Republicans and Democratic centrists as well, to take and incorporate their ideas in as we go through the process in the United States Senate.

"Obviously that's worrisome," Snowe added, "and I think that's a concern to all of us is, what will happen in the Senate, and what will happen in the merger that will take place in the next couple weeks, if it departs markedly from the framework of the Senate Finance bill."

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