Perhaps the biggest bit of drama expected in the Finance Committee's vote today on the Baucus bill would be whether or not Olympia Snowe would vote for it. In the last few weeks, it has become clear that she has been the one Republican who might actually vote for the bill and she just announced that she will be voting in favor of the legislation -- at least in committee. After the White House has been focused on trying to get a bipartisan bill through Congress, I'm sure that they are very pleased to hear this news. While I agree that it's always nice to have bipartisan support for a bill and commend Olympia Snowe for being willing to break from her party if she'll stand up for real health care reform on the Senate floor, I'm not fully convinced that she's going to be fighting for what we really need in the bill and I therefore wonder what her impact will be on the final legislation that emerges from the Senate.
By breaking from her party and even considering voting for reform Snowe has lost some favor with the Republican Party. With the public pressure to get a bill passed and on the President's desk, there was some movement among Democratic officials to get the bill passed without catering to Snowe's every demand. Rep. Alan Grayson even went to the floor of the House of Representatives to remind his colleagues that "Olympia Snowe wasn't elected president last November." What could keep her influential in the discussions though would be to vote for the bill in committee because the Democratic leadership wouldn't want to lose the one Republican vote that they were already able to get.
What this essentially means is that Olympia Snowe will have a lot of power in the next few weeks and that the general public needs to remind our Senators that we strongly support the public option and providing everyone with access to affordable health care. This is important because while there can be some changes to the bill in conference (to settle differences between the House and Senate bills), the smaller the differences the better. That is why I strongly encourage everyone to call their Senators and tell them that you support the public option. In Virginia, the Senator who could really use an extra reminder is Mark Warner and his office can be reached at 202-224-2023.