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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Only the Margin is in Doubt

There was never any real doubt that Sonia Sotomayor would be confirmed as the nation's 111th Supreme Court Justice. Only the margin of confirmation was in doubt. How many Republicans would vote to confirm? That question is beginning to get answered late this week after Judge Sotomayor breezed through her confirmation hearings. Late today came word that GOP Senators Dick Lugar of Indiana, Mel Martinez of Florida and Olympia Snowe of Maine would vote to confirm. Not surprising, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will vote against confirmation. More from the New York Times:

OP Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Senate's most senior Republican, Mel Martinez of Florida, its lone Hispanic Republican, and Olympia Snowe of Maine all announced they'd vote for Sotomayor, praising her qualifications and her testimony at four days of Judiciary Committee hearings this week.

''I was pleased that Judge Sotomayor repeatedly recognized in her responses this week that 'the job of a judge is to apply the law' rather than independently make policy, and that it is the law, rather than one's own sympathies that 'compels conclusions in cases,' '' Snowe said in a statement.

McConnell planned a speech Monday in which he'll say the 55-year-old appeals court judge's past statements demonstrate an ''alarming lack of respect for the notion of equal justice,'' and question her ability to separate her sympathies and prejudices from her decisions.

McConnell joins other GOP conservatives who are lining up firmly against Sotomayor, including Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, who announced Friday that he'll vote no, citing her position on gun rights and comments he said indicate ''a tendency toward judicial activism.'' But with solid backing from Democrats, who enjoy a lopsided majority, and a growing number of Republicans, there's virtually no doubt the judge will be confirmed as the 111th Supreme Court justice.

Republicans have said they won't try to block or even delay a vote to confirm her, which is expected in early August.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that neither he nor any GOP senator he knows of is interested in holding up the vote. The panel is likely to cast the first votes on Sotomayor's nomination in late July, although Democrats were pushing for a committee vote as soon as Tuesday.

The sooner the better.

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