Snowe: Public option's a deal breaker

The lone Republican to vote for the Baucus healthcare bill says the legislation could lose her support

By Alex Koppelman
Published October 14, 2009 11:36PM (EDT)

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, explained her vote in favor of the healthcare reform bill drafted by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, on Tuesday by saying, "When history calls, history calls." When a reform bill comes to the Senate floor, though, history may be on the phone telling her something different.

Snowe has already said that she won't guarantee a vote in favor of the final legislation, that it depends on what form that bill takes, and that the inclusion of a public option might be enough to push her back to the Republican side of the aisle on this issue. In an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews Wednesday, Snowe expanded on that.

Matthews asked Snowe, "What is the deal-breaker down the road you foresee? Is there something that might come out of that meeting among Sen. Reid, Sen. Dodd, Sen. Baucus and Rahm Emanuel ... that might cause you to have to change your vote on the floor?" The senator answered:

Well, there are obviously several things. Overall, it would be whether or not they add dramatically to the cost. Secondly, of course, is the public option. I think there are other ways of accomplishing that goal short of creating a government program at the outset that raises a lot of concerns about whether or not government will be running healthcare, making medical decisions, doing it efficiently and effectively or more costly. So there are a number of issues in that regard ... Finally, we have to know the final cost before we begin the debate on the floor of the Senate ... [we need] a final score from the Congressional Budget Office so we know exactly the expanse of this bill.

Snowe also said that she'd like to see the Baucus bill used as the basis for the final legislation. That may well end up happening, but it won't make liberal Democrats, especially the ones in the House, very happy.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Olympia J. Snowe R-maine