I may be the only person following the debate over health care who is shocked at the attention Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is getting for voting for the Senate Finance Committee health care bill - but yes, as my new newspaper column explains, I am surprised, and for what should be obvious reasons.
First of all, Snowe's vote in support of the bill wasn't mathematically necessary - the bill would have passed with or without her vote for it. That's just an empirical fact; as is the fact that Democrats have 60 votes themselves to overcome a filibuster with or without Snowe; as is the fact that Democrats have the 51 votes necessary to pass health care reform with reconciliation, again with or without Snowe. So the idea that her vote was/is pivotal is a fantasy created by a Beltway media always trying to manufacture drama - and often stretching to manufacture that drama in a city populated by old, boring, ultra-parsing sycophants and lobotomy cases.
Second, and more important, the idea that Snowe's support is important because it will allow the final bill to be called "bipartisan" - and the idea that that billing will politically protect Democrats - is absurd on its face. How do we know this? Because Democrats taught us that via the Iraq War.
Recall that a huge chunk of Democratic legislators voted to support the Iraq War. Indeed, the Iraq resolution was far more "bipartisan" than the health care bill can ever hope to be in this Congress. And yet, Democrats turned right around and used the Iraq War to criticize Republicans and the Bush administration - and quite effectively, if the 2006 and 2008 elections were any indication. I'm not saying I was 100% happy with that - I would have liked the Democrats to oppose the war from the get-go, but I am saying it's a pretty clear fact that even though Democrats supported the Iraq War, it didn't prevent them from attacking the Republicans/Bush on the issue.
Thus, the idea that one Republican vote from Maine will politically insulate Democrats from GOP attacks on health care doesn't make any sense. The only thing that will ultimately protect Democrats from those inevitable GOP political attacks will be a health care bill that actually delivers real results.
Read the whole column here.
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