Snowe says she'll vote against public option

The lone Republican senator to back any Democratic healthcare proposal says she could support a filibuster

Published October 22, 2009 7:01PM (EDT)

When it comes time to pass a final healthcare reform bill, Senate Democrats may need help from Maine's Olympia Snowe, the only Republican senator thus far to vote for a Democratic proposal. And if they do, that could spell doom for the public option.

Snowe was asked Thursday whether she'd vote for cloture -- that is, to end a filibuster -- on a bill that includes a provision for a government-run insurer. "I'd say I'm against a public option, so yes," she replied. Pressed further, "But would [the public option] be enough for you to say, 'I'm not going to proceed to this bill," Snowe reportedly nodded as she walked away.

The senator also voiced her opposition to a compromise public option plan that's been floated, one that would allow individual states to opt out of the federal insurer.

Like it or not, Snowe really may be a pivotal vote. Democrats have made preparations, just in case, to bring a reform bill to the floor using the reconciliation process, which doesn't allow filibusters, but seem loath to do so. Without Snowe, they'd have to hold every member of the Senate's Democratic caucus in order to defeat a filibuster, and that could be a very difficult task -- Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., appears ready to join with the Republicans on a cloture vote, to say nothing of moderate Democrats like Sens. Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Mary Landrieu and others.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Olympia J. Snowe R-maine