Snowe to vote 'yes' for Finance Committee healthcare reform bill

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will vote to approve the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare bill on Tuesday.

Snowe characterized her decision as a vote for history, but made it clear she did not think the measure was perfect and could shift her stance in a later floor vote.

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“My vote today is my vote today. It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow,” Snowe said.

“The mark before us today produces bipartisan, landmark reforms,” she continued.  “The consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of moving a healthcare reform bill.

“I happen to think the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress,” she added.  “There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey ... At the same time, they want us to continue.”

Snowe’s support makes it certain the Finance bill will move through the committee even if there is a Democratic defection. Most of the panel’s Democrats are expected to vote in favor of the bill.

The centrist Republican is the only GOP senator or House member to support any of the healthcare bills moving through Congress. Snowe had been courted aggressively by the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress.

She has been under enormous pressure from her colleagues to oppose the Finance measure, with one GOP senator suggesting she could lose an influential Senate committee post if she goes against her party on healthcare.

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The Maine centrist maintained in her remarks that she remains opposed to a public option in health reform, which was not included in the Finance bill but serves as a centerpiece within the health bill reported out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be charged with merging the two bills in the coming days and weeks, and Snowe insisted her support is conditional, based on changes that could be made as the Senate Democratic leadership moves the bill forward and it is amended on the Senate floor.

Snowe’s decision visibly pleased Baucus, who has been working hard over the past months to get some Republican support for his health proposal.