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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Snowe Vote Sets Stage for Creative Compromise

It is encouraging that Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (ME) joined in supporting the Senate Finance Committee version of health care reform, setting an admirable, albeit lonely example of bipartisanship in the 14-9 vote. As WaPo‘s Chris Cilliza suggests in ‘The Fix,’ Snowe’s vote could be significant in another way — inspiring hesitant Democrats to stand up for consumers against the worst instincts of the health care industry.
For the best report thus far on the SFC vote and it’s ramifications, read The Washington Post‘s coverage by Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray. Read also Chris Bowers’ easy-to-follow explanation of the legislative process regarding health care reform going forward.
It’s not such great news that a solid public option did not make the SFC cut. Nor is there much cause for celebration in the committee’s approval of nonprofit, consumer-run cooperatives to instead perform that role. In addition, agreement on the financing of health care reform is no closer as a result of the committee’s vote. According to the Posts’ coverage, the SFC version is a disappointment to some progressives because,

The measure does not mandate that businesses provide coverage to their workers. Committee members defeated two versions of a government insurance option. And the bill would tax high-value policies that, to the dismay of many liberal lawmakers, could affect some union households.

However, the good, make that great news is that all relevant Senate committees have now approved health care reform legislation that caps out of pocket spending by consumers at a reasonable level, bans disqualification from coverage based on prior medical condition and increases by millions the number of citizens covered. As Montgomery’s and Murray’s article notes, “Not since Theodore Roosevelt proposed universal health care during the 1912 presidential campaign has any such bill come this far.” Adds House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), “We are much closer than we’ve ever been. I think we’re going to make it.
A range of creative compromises regarding the public or co-op options are still in play, including Snowe’s ‘trigger mechanism,’ state public options or some hybrid version, perhaps even widened access to ‘health exchanges,’ as Sen. Ron Wyden has proposed, all of which would be better than what we have now. Regrettably, the single-payer option remains d.o.a. — although single-payer for catastrophic coverage only could be proposed as an amendment before the deal is done.
Although the white house and congressional leaders would have welcomed more than token bipartisanship, Democrats should not hesitate to use the Republicans’ nearly unanimous obstructionist front against them, if need be. They can grumble, gripe and whine all they want. Democrats need only keep reminding the press and public that majority rule is the American way.

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