Sen. Olympia Snowe just ended months of speculation and agreed to vote the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill out of committee, allowing Demorcats to claim the support of at least one Republican -- for now.
In her statement, Snowe emphasized that this was merely one step in a long process, and that her vote today should not be used to forecast her final vote.
Now that passage out of the Finance Committee is all but official, the bill will have to be merged with the more liberal Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill. Snowe said that she'll want to see a CBO estimate of the final merged bill -- written in legislative language -- before determing whether or not to vote for it.
While expressing several reservations about the bill, she said, "When history calls, history calls."
This is a good headline for Democrats today, but it doesn't solve the underlying friction between moderate and liberal members of Congress. The ability to attract one Republican may stregthen Baucus's hand during negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chris Dodd (representing the HELP Committee) and embolden Blue Dogs to oppose the inclusion of a government-run plan in the House. Everything will hinge on whether House liberals cave in on their demand for a government plan, or dig in.
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