Snowe still in discussions with Obama about final health vote

Though Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) still plans to vote against Saturday night's procedural motion on the healthcare bill, she is still in talks with President Barack Obama regarding her final vote on the legislation.

Snowe said that she spoke to Obama while he was aboard Air Force One en route to Asia earlier this week.

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"He restated his intention of working with me on this issue," Snowe told a group of reporters. She said that there "there are still fundamental issues that still need to be confronted" before she would considering voting for the bill during later votes.

Throughout the debate, Snowe has opposed the government-run public healthcare option as is it written in the legislation. She has indicated that she would support a "trigger" induced public option that would come into effect should health insurance companies fail to meet certain performance benchmarks.

Snowe said that talks continue between a group of centrist senators, including Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), about renegotiating the terms of the public option in a final bill. Snowe, however, said that they have not spoken to Senate Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the liason to the group, in the last week.

The centrist Republican said that attracting bipartisan support for the bill would be critical for a "historic endeavor" such as healthcare reform, saying it would be the "first time in half a century" that a piece of major legislation passed without bipartisan support. 

Snowe did not define how many Republican senators would be needed to call the bill bipartisan, but said "I hope it is more than just me." She also called on the president to attract more Republicans to vote for the bill.

"This is a place where the president could play a pivotal role," she said.

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