Waiting for the Senate Finance Committee

The pivotal committee votes on one version of healthcare reform legislation Tuesday

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 13, 2009 3:50PM (EDT)

It's taken quite a while to get this far, but on Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee is finally scheduled to vote on a healthcare reform bill put together by its chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

Baucus' bill has been controversial -- not progressive enough for progressives, not conservative enough for conservatives -- but, thanks to the Democratic majority on the committee, it's expected to pass there. (The Senate floor is a different story, but we're not there yet, especially as the various versions of the legislation that have come out of committee will most likely  be combined in some fashion.)

For now, then, the biggest question isn't whether the committee will vote to approve the bill, but whether the Democrats will be joined by one of their Republican colleagues, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. Though Democrats have largely given up on their earlier attempts to craft a bill that could attract more bipartisan support, they'd still like to get Snowe's vote for political reasons. NBC's First Read blog observes

Nothing will put a damper on the expected passage of the Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill other than a result that does NOT include Snowe voting in the affirmative. She's the cover the White House needs, NOT for bipartisanship, but for wooing Democrats like Ben Nelson and Tom Carper and Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh. Snowe is today's most powerful politician in Washington when it comes to health care. Forget Harry Reid, Max Baucus or Barack Obama, her vote today will signal how the process of merging the House and Senate bills go forward. If she votes no, then the power center shifts from the middle to the progressive end of things inside the Democratic Party on this issue. But if she votes yes, then look for Reid to use the Finance Committee bill as the basis for the merged bill in the Senate.

Problem is, the GOP doesn't want Snowe breaking ranks. So her fellow Republican Senators are reportedly putting some pressure on her; The Hill reports that if she does vote in favor of Democratic reform proposals, Snowe might lose out on a chance to become the lead Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Max Baucus D-mont. Olympia J. Snowe R-maine