Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist caused a stir inside political circles two weeks ago when he said that he'd vote for Democratic-authored health care reform and urged his fellow Republicans to do the same.
Now that at least one Republican in the Senate has followed his advice and offered her support, however, Frist is saying that more GOP votes -- as many as five more -- are needed if the bill is to be successful.
In a short exchange with the Huffington Post on Thursday, the Tennessee Republican praised Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) for sending a "signal of bipartisanship" by voting for the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform proposal.
"She is very smart and I think she recognized... the necessity of pulling people together," he said. "I just have tremendous respect for her."
But one Republican vote, Frist added, does not make for a bipartisan or even effective bill. And if Democrats want to ensure that reform is constructed and (more importantly) implemented successfully, they would have to find several more GOP votes.
"I do think these bills have to have more than one Republican or three Republicans or five Republicans or there is going to be a huge backlash afterwards. Because it is going to be a tough bill -- taxes are going to go up, premiums are going to go up, benefits are not going to increase," Frist said. "It is going to do some very good things in terms of insurance reform, but if the American people don't feel that they were a part of developing this bill we are going to be in big trouble."
Acknowledging that it was easier to offer advice from outside the constraints of public office, Frist nevertheless provided a recommendation to his successor as Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid: Include Republican leadership in the process of merging the two Senate health care bills in consideration.
"Absolutely," said Frist. "I'd bring [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell in. Ted Kennedy was with me throughout the prescription drug bill. He didn't end up voting for it but he was there and his ideas got incorporated in there. I would bring people to the table even if they are not going to vote for the bill."