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The Senate Finance Committee Vote: 13-10 or 14-9?


The Senate Finance Committee votes on health-care reform today, and the question isn't whether the bill will pass. It's the margin by which it passes. The big question mark is Olympia Snowe: She's been given virtually everything she asked for. But there's talk that she might withhold her vote to increase her leverage on the floor. As the thinking goes, if she votes for the bill coming out of committee, Democrats will assume she's committed to the legislation and cease trying to woo her. On the other hand, if she votes against the bill coming out of committee, Democrats might decide she's simply not serious about signing onto the legislation, and they'll forge ahead with a 60-vote strategy.

But liberals should hope for an "aye" from Snowe. If she abandons the bill, that empowers Ben Nelson as the eventual dealmaker, much as he was during stimulus. He's already announced that he won't vote for the legislation without some bipartisan support, and if he's the guy left to secure that support, he may well do exactly what he did during the stimulus debate: create a voting bloc out of a couple conservative Democrats and Snowe and Collins that will delay cloture until they secure a package of idiosyncratic and damaging concessions that infuriate liberals. But this isn't the stimulus. A move like that could blow up whatever delicate compromise emerges from the HELP/Finance blender, and throw the negotiations into a late and unnecessary chaos. On health-care reform, it's a lot more dangerous to leave the power with the most conservative Democrat than the most liberal Republican.

Photo credit: Melina Mara -- The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 13, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Are Hospitals Extremely Nice to Insurers?


I wish Snowe and Nelson would swap teams. I don't exactly love Snowe, but I think her political choices are more idiotic because of her party affiliation. In Nelson's case, he simply an idiot.

Posted by: bcbulger | October 13, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Ben Nelson - what an abuse of power! (His brother is Charles Rangel in some sense, that is a different matter...)

But Ben Nelson knows he can very well wear such criticism as his badge of honor and still continue his great work of damaging America's prospects.

Posted by: umesh409 | October 13, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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