WASHINGTON -- As many had speculated, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine was the lone voice of Republican support Tuesday when the Senate Finance Committee approved its health care bill 14-9.
Speaking immediately after the final committee vote, Snowe said, "I just did this on the basis of my views, of my vote, on this moment in time." She denied that she'd supported the bill in order to secure a front-row seat at the negotiating table during the next round of the health care debate.
Snowe's aye, which she granted "with reservations," bestows a thin cloak of bipartisanship on a bill most Senate Republicans have vehemently opposed on fiscal, political and ideological grounds.
However, she made it clear that she won't automatically back subsequent iterations of the bill as it's debated on the Senate floor, saying there are "many miles to go in this legislative journey."
To keep her support, Snowe said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., needs "to incorporate some of the ideas that have been mentioned (in the Finance Committee) -- to make sure that we contain the cost, that it is budget-neutral."
Snowe pointed out the issue of a public -- or government-run -- health care option was a "line of demarcation between Republicans and Democrats," implying that she would withdraw her support if such an option were included.
She also challenged insurance companies, which she said stood to "gain enormously" from the health care overhaul.
"I think that the insurance companies have to step up to the plate and offer some constructive solutions," she said. "Twenty-nine million more Americans will be entering the system. That's 29 million more customers."
(The Medill News Service is a Washington program of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Heid, a graduate student in journalism from Ann Arbor, Mich., covers health care policy.)
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