While that was going Maine Senator Susan Collins announced that she is willing to vote for the final version of the bill so long as it lowers insurance costs.
Her declaration was actually asinine. At this point in time, the process that is developing the legislation that will come before Congress for a vote, is strictly a partisan one. It is one that Senator Collins and her Republican colleagues are essentially shut out of. As such, to claim that she will support the bill, simply if it lowers insurance costs is irresponsible. Democrats could easily produce legislation that easily meets Senator Collins very broad standard of lower insurance rates. They could actually lower rates by raising taxes and costs on everything else. That would simply shift costs on to other expenses. But, technically, it would do what the Senator said is the only thing the bill should do in order for her to vote for it.
After the other Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, became the only Republican on the Senate Finance Committee to come out and vote the healthcare bill before them, out of committee, she made it clear that she was simply voting for it in order to allow the process to continue. She indicated that if the process continues effectively and purposefully, it will afford the opportunity to make some of the changes that she feels the bill needs.
So long as negotiations that merge the House and Senate versions together, take place behind closed doors, that process is not being conducted fairly. It refuses to accept Republican suggestions and alternatives. That leaves little chance of adopting the changes that Olympia Snowe feels are needed. Regrettably, Senator Snowe herself made a true bipartisan effort on healthcare difficult to make happen. By casting her vote for the bill in committee, her lone Republican vote gives Democrats the opportunity to claim bipartisan support for the reforms that they propose. Even though Republicans have no say in what will come before them, Snowe’s vote allows Democrats to make the false claim that Republicans are a part of the process.
In other words, Senator Snowe did not help to get any of the reforms that Republicans feel are truly needed in keeping healthcare and keeping insurance costs down. And now her fellow Senator from Maine comes out and follows Snowe’s lead. Both of them have essentially sold it.
If Susan Collins needed to say anything on the issue, it should have went like this;
“Unless Democrats include tort reforms that will go a long way in holding down insurance costs and unless they create ways for insurance portability that will go a long way in maintaining access to affordable insurance and open choices and competition, then I will not even consider the bill that they hastily hammer out without any input from all sides of the aisle”.
The last thing Senators Collins and Snowe should have done was suggest that they will rollover for the Democrat majorities that want to steamroll an insurance reform package that creates mandates and higher fees and taxes.
The encouraging words that Collins offered to Democrats today, have helped to inspire Senate majority leader Harry Reid to reiterate his intention to speed up whatever comes out of his closed door negotiations and rush it to vote before years end. This in turn led Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to state that whatever the Democrats throw on the table, there should at least be a month of debate on the important issue.
The debate on the final version of the bill could offer the last chance for bipartisanship. If legitimate debate is allowed to be conducted, republicans could have the chance to propose amendments that, if given consideration, could possibly improve whatever Democrats lay on the table.
That has yet to be seen though.
As for Senators Snowe and Collins, I can’t help but feel that in light of their individual refusals to challenge Democrats to create a better package of healthcare reforms, perhaps it is time that they be challenged. Perhaps it is time they face a primary challenge for the Republican nomination for Senate next time they come up for reelection.