Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ObamaCare Snowmentum

Take this for what it's worth. I'm not sure I agree with everything here, but it's an interesting read from patterico.

The establishment media and the Obama administration lavished the love on Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) for backing the Baucus vapor bill in the Finance Committee. Snowe was not finding many admirers elsewhere.

On the Right, it was easy to find people who wanted to protest, or purge her from the GOP altogether. Allahpundit noted Snowe’s pompous egotism, even while acknowledging her vote was a no-brainer in terms of maintaining her influence.

However, Snowe’s vote — and continued leverage — was not exactly embraced on the Left. As FireDogLake’s Jon Walker put it:

Snowe’s support could signal a bad day for real reform.

Snowe has long been opposed to some of the most important elements of reform. I’m not just referring to her opposition to a real public option and her support for a worthless trigger proposal.

Snowe opposes a real employer mandate, and instead favors a disastrously stupid “free rider” provision. It could have serious consequences for low-income workers.

She is against giving the exchanges the power to negotiate with private insurance companies. This is a provision that should help keep down the cost of health care. It would save individuals money and the government money. Snowe fears it is too much government involvement. John Kingsdale, who runs Massachusetts’s exchange, called Snowe’s insistence that the exchanges not have the power to negotiate price with insurance companies a recipe for disaster.

Just today, during the committee hearing, she reaffirmed her support for “national plans.” This would allow health insurance companies to sell national plans in any states. Individuals state would lose the power to regulate these insurance plans sold in their states. The national plans would be exempt from all minimum benefit requirements mandated by the state legislature. This has been for a long time one of the top goals of the for-profit health insurance industry.

These are only the few changes that I know Snowe requested…

The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber adds:

[N]ow that Snowe has voted for the bill in committee, she can basically dictate the terms of the final bill… That’s because, if you alienate her during the forthcoming negotiations, her defection from the final bill would be disastrous. Just imagine the atmospherics of Olympia Snowe getting up on the Senate floor and saying she was so serious about passing health care reform she voted for it in committee, but that she can no longer support the bill because it’s moved too far to the left. It would be absolutely devastating.

Given the likelihood that the merged bill Sen. Maj. Ldr. Harry Reid plans to bring to the floor will end up more to the Left than the Baucus vapor bill, her committee vote is a nice CYA move with her constituents, and one Democrats may come to despise in the future more than Republicans do in the present.

Moreover, Snowe was not the only Senator crossing an aisle yesterday, as Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told Don Imus he would not support the Baucus vapor bill. TNR’s Jonathan Chait notes:

Connecticut is home to numerous insurance companies, and of course insurers have suddenly gone to war on health care reform. That may be a factor. My read is that Lieberman remains furious at the party for endorsing Democratic nominee Ned Lamont for the Senate in 2006 over Lieberman’s independent candidacy. Lieberman, of course, campaigned hard against Obama in 2008, and probably would enjoy the vindication of seeing Obama’s presidency fail

For months I’ve been predicting that the Democrats will pass health care reform because they’re not going to cut their own throat. But Lieberman is an independent. A failed Democratic presidency wouldn’t necessarily bring him down with it in 2012. It might even help. So I may have made a major error focusing on red state Democrats and overlooking Lieberman.

For a moment, savor the scenario in which the nutroots’ party purge of Lieberman could end up derailing their most cherished agenda item. Ed Morrissey downplayed this announcement, on the ground that Joe “wants an incremental approach rather than a comprehensive approach, specific to delivery.” But the Baucus vapor bill defines the most plausible conservative outcome. If Lieberman does not support the vapor bill, he may end up backing the GOP on the floor more often than Snowe.

In sum, the Dems (and the establishment media) gained a few days of Snowementum, but take a fair amount of risk in building her up for taking a vote they did not need to get the vapor bill out of committee. Meanwhile, one of the 60 votes the Dems will need in the full Senate announced he would not support a proposal more conservative than what they are likely to produce. On balance, yesterday’s news for the GOP was better than the establishment media would have everyone believe.


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