Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Which Way Will the Snowe Fall?

Apparently I was half right--Snowe was "Homer" in my example below. She waited just that fraction of a second too long to turn a profit on the sale of her bipartisanship. But now the question for us cognoscenti is--which way will she go when she actually has to pick a side, first for cloture and then for the historic vote on HRC in the Senate? Steve Benen (one of the hardest working Steves in blog commentary) and Brian Beutler try to figure it out:

Not surprisingly, Maine's senior senator was not pleased. Snowe's statement yesterday afternoon read:

"I am deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader's decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation. I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate."

Brian Beutler sees glimmers of hope in this: "How explicit a statement is that, though? I could be over-parsing here, but it sounds to me as if she's leaving a door pretty wide open to supporting this bill down the line. Note, she doesn't say she's withdrawing her support."

Perhaps, but I suspect Snowe's "deep disappointment" is her way of distancing herself from the bill. Indeed, just four days before Reid's announcement, Snowe said, "I'm against a public option." Asked if she'd join a GOP filibuster on this, Snowe said, "Yes, it would be difficult" to support letting the bill come to the floor for a vote.

In other words, I suspect the key question is no longer, "How do we keep Olympia Snowe happy?" Rather, it's, "How do we convince Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu to let the Senate vote on health care reform?"

I think they are both right--Beutler's right that Snowe is still in play and still trying to be a player. Benen's right that the Dems have, for the moment, moved on and are not trying to negotiate with her to get her vote. But I think they will get her vote anyway. Waaay back in the mesozoic age, two weeks ago or so, Snowe voted for the passage of the horrible Senate Finance Bill with the absurdly self important and rhetorically ugly statement "When history calls..." as though history imposed itself on us like an urgent need to pee. That's the real Snowe--someone who wants to be on the right side of history, however foolishly and narrowly she conceives that to be. She won't vote with the rest of the Republican pack dogs against Cloture and against the final bill. I can't figure out which Snowe will come to the ascendant at which point in the process--much seems to depend on how much attention, credit, or blame she will get, in her own mind, for each vote separately. I can see her voting against cloture if she thought she had enough "centrist" Dems to give her cover. I can see her voting for cloture if she sees the partisan breakdown as irremediable and she decides that "history is calling" her once again to pretend to be a swing vote. But I actually think, one way or another, she will end up voting for the bill on the floor, whatever it is, once its clear that passage is inevitable. There are ideologues, and true believers, and partisans, and obstreperous people who don't mind being hated and love the limelight whether it shines on them warmly or with hellish heat. Snowe isn't one of those. She's a woman of ego and self interest who loves the spotlight as long as its comfortable. Like Baucus, when the bill seems inevitable, she'll rush to put her signature on it and pretend it was all her idea all along.

No comments: