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Olympia Snowe Won't Vote For Health Care Bill

We all knew this was coming, right? On this week's Face the Nation, Olympia Snowe cites the lack of time for Republicans to further amend the health c
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We all knew this was coming, right? On this week's Face the Nation, Olympia Snowe cites the lack of time for Republicans to further amend the health care bill none of them ever had any intention of voting for as the reason she won't vote for it. Steve Benen has more this:

By all appearances, the White House, from the outset, made an effort to garner bipartisan support for health care reform. At least in the Senate, that now appears impossible. Democrats no longer need Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-Maine) vote, but they sought it out anyway, to no avail.

Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican who had been considered a possible Democratic ally, said she would oppose the measure because it was being rushed. "It is a take-it-or-leave-it package," she said.

I just can't figure out what on earth Snowe is talking about. She voted with Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee reform plan, but now appears to be looking for an excuse to oppose the effort. But to sound even remotely credible, Snowe will have to do better than this.

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I agree. Weak indeed. How's the bipartisanship working out for you President Obama? Snowe reminds me of her buddy Susan Collins talking about wanting to "improve" a bill she had no intention of voting for either. As Steve notes in his post, both of them have had ample chance to make this bill as bad as it is now.

Transcript via CQ Politics below the fold.

SCHIEFFER: We begin with Republican senator and appropriately enough Senator Olympia Snowe who is with us this morning. She was believed to be the most likely Republican to vote for this bill. In the end, senator, you decided not to vote for it. Thank you for joining us this morning.

SNOWE: Thank you, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Why in the end did you decide you couldn’t do it?

SNOWE: Well Bob, at this point anyways, I deeply regret that because I frankly I have been fully immersed in this process for a better part of the year, both my staff and myself because I’m committed to health care reform.

I believe that the current situation is unacceptable and unconscionable when you think about rising health care costs. That’s why the only Republican on the Finance Committee, I voted for legislation. I did have some problems with that particular legislation. But at the time the credibility of the process going forward would determine the credibility of the outcome.

So here we are today with a bill that’s dramatically different, more expansive than the Finance Committee. In fact it’s 1,200 pages more than the Finance Committee legislation. It was placed on the floor just short of three weeks ago. Four hundred amendments and two dozen have been considered voted upon.

As 400 members are not unusual since each of the committees that considered the legislation have had more than 500 amendments. Then less than 24 hours yesterday, we get a 400-page amendment that was filed by the Senate majority leader. We are scheduled to vote on that major amendment 15 hours from now at 1:00 in the morning with no opportunity to amend it. All to get done the entire bill with no opportunity to amend it, to change it by Christmas, so that we can adjourn for a three-week recess for a bill that doesn’t become implemented until 2014.

SCHIEFFER: What was the tipping point for you? What was it that happened that made you say I just can’t do it?

SNOWE: Well it was a number of issues. I have been in countless meetings, meetings and telephone calls, meetings with the president, meetings with the majority leader, a number of people across the aisle without question. The problem is the bill became bigger. It has the class act which is a whole new entitlement that frankly will turn in the red five years after the benefits begin.

SCHIEFFER: What is that?

SNOWE: It’s a long-term care insurance. And it’s a whole new entitlement. In fact, half of those revenues that will be set aside for a vesting period will be used to calculate the deficit reduction over the next 10 years. That’s where they derive half of their deficit reduction. Then you have a whole new layer of taxes. The Medicare payroll tax. We have good tax subsidies. And I applaud Senator Landrieu that you’ll be hearing from in a moment on those tax subsidies for small businesses.

SNOWE: But on the other hand, you have a 1 percent Medicare payroll tax on small businesses, affecting them disproportionately at a time we’re depending on them to create jobs to lead us out of this recession.

It is not indexed for inflation. It’s a 62 percent increase. So this will be devastating for small business as well.

I had submitted a CBO letter on December 3rd with substantial questions on what is the premium cost for every American who will be participating in the exchange? What can they expect?

As they’re sitting around their kitchen table, they expect certain answers to certain questions. We don’t have those answers to those questions. And that’s why I indicated to hold off. I said to the president and I said to the Senate majority leader and others, please, give us the time; come back after the new year; get together. This is a generational issue that has substantial effects with -- in fact, I would say sweeping effects because you’re recalculating one- sixth of our economy.

And, frankly, we’re treating it as if it’s the legislative appropriations at the end of the year. It’s like the last train leaving the station; we’re going to dump everything in there.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this. It’s my understanding that, even after Leader Reid announced that he had the 60th vote, the 60 votes he needs, you met again with President Obama. What was -- what was that about?

SNOWE: Correct. The president, you know, and I have -- have worked together on this issue. And I applaud him for, you know, his knowledge, his grasp of the issue. It’s his major and highest domestic initiative, on this issue, and he wants to get it done this year, and encouraging me to support the legislation.

And as I indicated to him, I’ll continue to work through, our House and Senate conference, but the legislation that is pending -- this process denies us the ability to thoroughly and carefully and deliberately evaluate what is at stake. I mean, we’re talking about reordering $33 trillion over the next 10 years.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do you -- was the reason for this meeting -- was he asking you to vote for this thing when it comes out of conference? Is that what it was?

SNOWE: No, it was the pending legislation.

SCHIEFFER: But you told him you couldn’t?

SNOWE: That I had -- yes, that I had problems, because the process is denying me and others, for that matter, the opportunity to amend it, on a big bill.

Why Christmas? There’s no magic deadline. This “beat the clock” is really overruling legislative sanity.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you -- let me ask you about the abortion language in here. Senator Nelson insisted that the abortion language be tightened on what money could be spent on abortions in these insurance policies.

But now he’s satisfied, but now the right-to-life folks, the anti-abortion people say they’re not satisfied with it. But the people who favor abortion say they’re not satisfied with it, either. Are you...

(LAUGHTER)

... how do you feel about that part of it?

SNOWE: Well, I helped to -- to work on the underlying legislation and the provision that basically, you know, embraced the status quo, making sure that we’re not using any federal funds to finance abortion, using a precedent that already exists in domestic family programs and in national family planning programs, as well as Medicaid.

And I think there’s 17 states that separate their funds. They’re not commingled. That is a process that’s worked time and again.

And I think it’s regrettable that it’s reached this point with respect to this issue because, clearly, what is in the current legislation should have satisfied those concerns. It was every attempt to write it as it is in existing law that would not use any federal funds to finance abortion.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator, so thank you very much for coming in on a very snowy day here in Washington.

SNOWE: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We’ll be right back.

SNOWE: Thank you, Bob.

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