This will be the fifth and final committee hurdle that H.R. 3200 will go through before it gets merged with four other congressional committee versions. The merging of all five committees versions into one bill will then be scheduled for a full and vote before the House and then the Senate.
It does appear that all 13 members of the committee’s Democrat majority will vote for the bill before them. The only real suspense that exists is whether or not all 10 members of the Senate Finance Committee’s Republican minority will unanimously oppose the bill.
Were it not for Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, there would be no question that the Baucus version of the healthcare bill will pass the finance committee along strictly partisan lines. But Snowe is not always a fan of Republican policy. On the most recent stimulus package, she was one of only three Republicans to support it. So it is not unlikely that she may be the first and only Republican to support the Obama health management and race reforms to date.
As she entered into the closed door potion of the finance committee meeting, before a final vote is held, Senator Snowe said that she is still considering everything involved in this multifaceted issue.
Her coyness has made her the most important Senator on the hill these past few weeks. If she were to vote for the bill in committee, Democrats will have the opportunity to exaggerate claims that their reforms have bipartisan support. So pivotal her vote might be that Democrats have wined and dined her and it even prompted Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid to congratulate Snowe for comments she once made on the bill as he proclaimed them to be a “brilliant statement,” and to say “She is a leader.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus stated “She’s a very important senator”.
On the flip side, one of the most vulnerable Democrat Senators up for election, Arkansas Blanche Lincoln is also being closely watched. She is considered the only Democrat who may not support the Baucus bill. If Lincoln does oppose it, that will be a strong signal that the issue is not popular among swing voters, voters who may easily make the difference in her reelection effort in 2010.
But it is Snowe’s position that makes her the most powerful Senator of the moment. Her approval provides the administration with an essential detail that the President has promised….a bipartisan bill.
Snowe’s biggest concerns mainly deal with the impact on how the bill’s tax on high-cost insurance plans, would affect her home state, where healthcare coverage ranks among the most expensive in the country. However, where she ultimately falls on her committee vote, could greatly impact more than just her state. It could help provide the devastating health management and care reforms, the ability to limp along, on to final passage in the full senate as it provides enough cover for some conservative Democrats, who are on the fence, to vote for the bill.