Snowe Melts Away

GOP Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine said Tuesday she could not back the Senate Finance Committee's bill that Chairman Max Baucus of Montana had laboriously crafted this summer behind closed doors to strike a bipartisan healthcare reform deal.

From The Hill:

Senate Democrats are going to have to move forward on healthcare without a single Republican supporter after Sen. Olympia Snowe said Tuesday she could not back the Finance Committee's bill.

Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed to win any Republican backer despite weeks of intense negotiations behind closed doors to strike a deal.

Snowe (Maine), who was one of three Republicans who backed the $787 billion economic stimulus package, was being lobbied heavily by the White House, and some centrists view her refusal to strike a deal with Baucus as troubling. But concerns about how the plan would be paid for prompted her to back away in the hours before its release.

"I do have concerns and I'm not sure they can be addressed before he issues [legislation] tomorrow," Snowe said.

Dare I say that the Baucus bill is stillborn. Still Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts sees the Baucus bill as the starting point. He said the measure Baucus introduces will only be a beginning as other lawmakers on the committee get ready to do their work.

"It's not going to be the bill we're going to vote on," Kerry told reporters.

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Gagging On Half a Loaf

In one of her debates with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton (who's forgotten more about health care than hacks like Kent Conrad will ever know) said Democrats needed to insist that their plan provide universal coverage (which Obama has always been lukewarm about), or else the opposition would "nibble it to death." Well, as usual, Hillary was right.  The Republicans and their crazed wingnut hordes have been nibbling away like the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and they may very well succeed in getting President Obama to sign a shitty bill.

But missing from this depressing story in today's New York Times ( /policy/06lessons.html?_r=1&ref=poli tics) is any indication that Barack Obama himself -- who's been lauded for playing chess while lesser politicians played checkers -- has much interest in the health care endgame from a policy standpoint.  He seems prepared to sign anything, which might be why, at each potential inflection point during the course of the debate, he has chosen to make himself invisible.  And politics abhors a vacuum.

This is the problem with Democratic strategists in general and Obama in particular.  They're still afraid of looking too liberal.  So in the end, because they refuse to lead, they look weak, even in victory, as they pass a milquetoast bill that they then have to sell -- without conviction -- to a still skeptical public.

But maybe this time, the Democratic base might get royally pissed off.  What -- really -- have we got to lose?

(From my blog

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A Health Care Plea to President Obama

Chuck Grassley sez:

I said to the president that I thought in order to get a bipartisan bill, it was absolutely necessary for him to say that he would sign a bill without a public option in it'

He also sez:

It isn't a good deal if I can't sell my product to more Republicans.

Chuck Grassley is also afraid of some very wild things like "death panels:"

Chuck sez:

You couple this with all the other fears people have and what they do in England, and then you get the idea that somebody's going to decide gram's lived too long,

And he says these things long after he began "negotiating" health care reform as a member of the "Gang of Six!"

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Beltway Finally Realizing McCain Isn't Bipartisan

Earlier this week I noted that John McCain was failing to live up to his image (however false it is) of bipartisanship by waffling over the Sonia Sotomayor, the most experienced nominee for the Supreme Court in nearly a century. With McCain no longer waffling, and actually outright opposing her nomination, it looks like the Beltway media is finally beginning to catch on.

McCain's no votes on Sebelius and Sotomayor appear to be head-scratchers to many in Washington, since he preaches bipartisanship and the idea of giving deference to a president.

More from First Read:

Speaking of, here's a line from a speech McCain delivered last year, per NBC's Chris Donovan: "When President Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg to serve on the high court, I voted for their confirmation, as did all but a few of my fellow Republicans. Why? For the simple reason that the nominees were qualified, and it would have been petty, and partisan, and disingenuous to insist otherwise. Those nominees represented the considered judgment of the president of the United States. And under our Constitution, it is the president's call to make... It is part of the discipline of democracy to respect the roles and responsibilities of each branch of government, and, above all, to respect the verdicts of elections and judgment of the people. Had we forgotten this in the Senate, we would have been guilty of the very thing that many federal judges do when they overreach, and usurp power, and betray their trust."

With even the ultra-conservative Pat Toomey supporting the Sotomayor nomination, the extremism and outright partisanship inherent in McCain's positioning is readily apparent.

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Does McCain Know the Meaning of Bipartisanship?

Over the weekend, John McCain -- who shockingly appeared on a Sunday show yesterday -- opined that Barack Obama has failed in his efforts at bipartisanship. But looking at the real piece of news that the Arizona Senator made during the same interview yesterday, it became yet more clear that McCain does not know the meaning of "bipartisanship."

McCain, appearing on CNN's State of the Union today, says he still is examining Sotomayor's record after the Senate Judiciary Committee sent her to the full Senate on a 13-6 vote - with one of Obama's closest friends in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, supporting the president's pick.

Sonia Sotomayor has the longest judicial resume of any Supreme Court nominee in nearly a century, is less liberal than other potential picks by the President, and by and large shares the same judicial philosophy as David Souter, the man she is to replace on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor also has a record of having been nominated and supported in the past not only by Democrats but also by Republicans. Yet McCain, who professes to be the arbiter of what is and what is not bipartisan, can't figure out how he is going to vote on her nomination? If McCain doesn't know whether he can support a supremely qualified and able nominee who is in many ways an exemplar of bipartisanship, it's not totally clear that McCain understands the meaning of the term.

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