Olympia Snowe Should Vote Against the Baucus Plan

How is it that a decision next week by a single Senator from Maine will almost certainly determine whether America’s future healthcare system is still in the hands of private for-profit insurance companies and Big Pharma or enables more Americans to get better health care at lower cost? Bear with me, because you need to know what’s likely to happen if she signs on, and if she doesn’t. The next few weeks are crucial.

Scenario One: If Olympia Snowe votes in favor of Max Baucus’s plan — which is favored by the medical-industrial complex because it dramatically increases their customer base without a public option that squeezes their profits — the Baucus plan will be the bill that goes to the Senate floor. Why? Because her vote will give enough political cover to waivering Dems Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Jim Webb, and Evan Bayh to gain their support for the Baucus plan. Which means the White House and the Democratic leadership in the Senate will have a good chance to get the 60 votes they need when the bill goes to the Senate floor in a few weeks.

That Senate vote will push Nancy Pelosi and the House Dems toward the right. That’s because it will embolden conservative and Blue Dog House Dems to threaten to vote against the far stronger bill that’s already emerged from House committees — which, in contrast to the Senate Finance bill, includes a public option, an employer mandate, significant expansion of Medicaid, and larger government subsidies to others with lower incomes. Pelosi knows she can’t get a single Republican vote, so has to count on the support of at least 218 out of 256 Democrats. That means winning over at least 38 conservatives and Blue Dog Dems– many of whom were elected from swing districts and some of whom face strong Republican challengers in 2010. With Baucus’s bill gaining momentum, or perhaps already having been passed, the conservatives and Blue Dogs in the House will demand a bill that’s closer to it. House progressives will put up a fight but there’s little question that the emerging compromise will be to the right of where the House is right now.

The two bills then go to a reconciliation committee where the White House can put some final touches on it before it goes back to the two chambers for a final vote. The White House likes this scenario because it keeps private insurance companies, Big Pharma, and the AMA from bolting. It enables the President to call the resulting bill “bipartisan,” and to claim that it marks real reform. And maintains the possibility of Republican support for financial reform and environmental legislation next year.

Scnenario Two: If Snowe decides not to sign on, history moves in a very different direction. Most importantly, the Senate Dems know they won’t possibly have 60 votes they need. So they’ll have to say goodbye to bipartisanship — perhaps even farewell to Nelson, Landrieu, Webb, and Bayh — and bundle healthcare reform into a “reconciliation” bill that can pass with 51. This new goal post strengthens the hand of Senate progressives on the Finance Committee, like Rockefeller. It also gives more weight to the version of health care reported out by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension committee — which includes a public insurance option, employer mandate, and more generous subisidies to the poor and lower middle class. Hence, the bill that goes to the Senate floor is much more progressive, and the final Senate’s vote (with 51 votes) better reflects the values of the Democratic base.

This Senate vote, moreover, gives more momentum and legitimacy to the House version of health care — which also includes the public option, employer mandate, broader Medicaid coverage, and more generous subsidies to the lower middle class. That Senate vote thereby reduces the power of House Blue Dogs and conservative Dems to influence the bill that goes to the House floor. It also enables Pelosi to say to them: It’s either this or nothing. If you vote against this bill you’re voting against health care reform. The more progressive Senate bill, plus the stark choice Pelosi poses, garners enough votes from the conservative and Blue Dog Dems to pass a strong bill.

The White House doesn’t like this scenario because the use of a reconciliation bill in the Senate poisons relations with Republicans and risks their support for financial reform and cap-and-trade. It may even make it more difficult for Obama to rely on Republican support for more troops in Afghanistan. But as we move into the gravitational pull of the 2010 midterms, congressional Republicans won’t support Obama anyway, on anything. And remember, George W. Bush used reconciliation early in his first term to enact his huge tax cuts, mostly for the very wealthy. It’s a tried-and-true strategy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping the Senator from Maine votes no next week. If she does, America has a fighting chance of getting real healthcare reform.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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3 Comments on Olympia Snowe Should Vote Against the Baucus Plan

  1. Its time to re-examine instant citizenship (Anchor babies) which hasn’t been illuminated enough, to growing concern of the American public. For decades now pregnant women have arrived on tourist’s visas, through the fence and even at ports of call. Very aware of our mis-interpreted law governing “birthright citizenship”, that attributes full rights to the Mother of an illegal immigrant. How can Americans benefit from this Health care reform package, when we must subsidize millions of households and not just the original interloper? Outlined in the spring issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is an article that will stun a prudent person. An illegal alien entered the states in 1997 to work as a fruit picker, bringing with him his wife and three children; all illegal aliens.

    The lady gave birth to a fourth child, and with that birth the family had an “anchor baby”—an American citizen by birth, who provided the entire family with a free pass to remain in the United States permanently and collect government, subsides. Unfortunately the baby was born prematurely, spent three months in the neonatal incubator, and cost the San Joaquin Hospital more than $300,000. Meanwhile, the oldest daughter married an illegal alien and gave birth to her own anchor baby, and then the wife gave birth to yet another baby. ALL PAID FOR BY—YOU!

    This is just one taxpayer example of the ‘Rule of law’ that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars. A nurse admitted last weekend, according to Review-Journal reported that cash-strapped UMC hospital in Nevada is providing more than $20 million a year in emergency dialysis care for uninsured, illegal immigrants. Is American society insane when poverty stricken Americans are turned away, go bankrupt and sometimes die? TAXPAYERS ARE TAXED FOR THIS, BUT NOT FOR OUR OWN PEOPLE? We must insist that a Birthright Citizenship lawsuit be filed with the federal court and its original intent revisited? That E-Verify should be fully funded and a highly skilled MIT team, building on the original Immigration enforcement database to a highest level of security that cannot be compromised by the use of fraudulent documents.

    The PC oriented application must be installed permanently on every business computer across this country? ICE should have the manpower to audit every workplace, with the power to arrest and detain employers who snub immigration laws? Repeat offenders should be dealt with harshly, including prison and confiscation of business assets. There should be no mitigating excuses because illegal immigrants are—STEALING JOBS– on any rung of the employment ladder? These employers for years have been an intended magnet for destitute labor in many cases, but have left the burden of paying for schooling for the children, health care and a veiled miscellaneous core of government handouts to US taxpayers. THIS IS NOT ABOUT RACISM, BUT AN ULTIMATE FINANCIAL MATTER OF SURVIVAL FOR US ALL! Coincidentally, I want a government health care, specially for some low income American family members.

    Insist your politicians guarantee E-Verify is fully funded and is not scuttled by Sen. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Janet Napolitano or any other high ranking Democrats. The Washington switchboard has their number at 202-224-3121. Research these laws, true facts and incredulous stats at NUMBERSUSA & JUDICIAL WATCH

  2. Olympia Snowe will be remembered for her vote against the “We the People”, who have overwhemingly protested against the Government takeover of Health Care.
    She, infact, voted in support of huge Tax increases over a ten year span, and increasing our national debt, and against senior citizens.
    She should be asked to resign immediately, if not sooner.

  3. Olympia Snowe should be voted out and all the rest that vote for this bill. We should all have the same insurance as congress,the house and Union. Why is union so special,they are nothing,just kissng up to Obama. I think we should vote all of them out and put all new people in. They are greedy,money hungry,and don’t care about America.They are sending our money and jobs overseas.No morals anymore.They need to get rid of Polosi,Reed,Snowe,Frank,Dodd,and especially Rangel(big old thief).Stop illegal immigrants coming over our borders illegally.If the want to live here let them go through legally.Snow needs to be voted out and go home.

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