The Washington Times reports that Olympia Snowe is “deeply disappointed” that Harry Reid has decided to go ahead with a public option, despite the fact that she voted for the Baucus bill in Committee, and was the only Republican on board. I suppose, but doubt, that this could teach Senator Snowe a lesson about the importance of party loyalty.
More interesting, however, than Snowe’s disappointment is Reid’s thinking on the issue. There was a time that Democrats seemed quite eager to have at least one Republican on board, for “bipartisan” cover. With Reid’s insistence on the public option over the opposition of the only Republican he had on board, it appears doubtful that any other Republicans will jump ship and experience the same treatment. In addition, he does not appear to have the votes, although he is obviously closer to the whip counts than I am. Perhaps he is counting on an all-or-nothing approach, wherein he will tell members of his party that if they want to support health reform, their only choice is to be behind his version, which includes the public option. The problem with that is that it is a lot easier to pull off in the House, where the majority party sets the rules and determines exactly what gets voted on, than in the Senate, where the amendment process diminishes the control that the leaders have over the final product. And anyone who thought that Reid was a master of the Senate floor needs to look at last week’s vote on the $250 billion physician payment fix, in which Democrats lost 13 votes from their side of the aisle.