"My vote today is my vote today. It doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow."
- Maine Senator Olympia Snowe
Our senior Senator has garnered a lot of national press with expectations of her vote for the Baucus bill and her eventual Finance Committee vote in favor of the measure. Take little comfort from her involvement, it has not served us well. In part to earn her vote, the public option that would save us the greatest amount of money and save us from insurance company exploitation never appeared in the bill. Certainly there are a few Democratic members aligned against the public option but her acceptance of it could have been pivotal. Instead Senator Snowe influenced the watering down of the Finance committee bill.
Her support may indeed prove to be a thorn that penetrates deeper. Now there will be a concerted effort to keep her on board with the hopes of also attracting her colleague and our other wayward Senator, Susan Collins. This effort could indeed ensure that the Senate’s eventual merged bill of the Finance and HELP measures has no public option or just a public option gimmick like a trigger. Senator Snowe will have future water runs available to her to dilute the reform desperately needed and assist keeping insurance companies floating on top.
The final step will be the House/Senate Conference to craft the final bill. It will pit a weakened Senate bill against the more robust public option offerings that the House is sure to pass. Senator Snowe may even have a seat in that conference but if not will surely have an open back door. After she helped weaken the Senate Finance Committee bill and likely assisted in passing a weak Senate combined bill tailored to keep her “bipartisan” stamp on things, do we want her doing further damage to health care reform?
The national press will continue with their attention on our senior Senator. The lobbyists and influence peddlers will remain in touch with her with their privileged special Washington access to keep their version of market solutions in front of her. Some leading Democrats, despite the fact that she will weaken the very reforms they know in their hearts are essential and even the administration seeking the bipartisan imprimatur will continue to court her vote and thereby give her a role out of proportion to what would best serve us in Maine.
In Maine, citizens really need substantive robust reform. We need a public option and not some flimsy state sized substitute public option but a national solution that is powerful enough to save us substantial money in a nationally reformed system. The argument will arise that some reform is better than none. But like a badly broken bone, set improperly, the future difficult complications sure to come will be on the nation’s and Maine’s horizon.
Constituents are one voice in the process, one that all the other powerful influences are dismissing and trying to suppress. We must counter loudly and forcibly hold Senator Snowe accountable to us. She may not “forecast what my vote will be tomorrow” but we need to forecast the storm that results from giving into the pressure system in Washington with its effect on the political weather in Maine.
We must translate Senator Snowe's “you lose me” if a public option gets in the final bill to “you lose us” if she does not support substantive reform.