When Tuesday began, the chatter was all about Olympia Snowe. Would she or wouldn’t she vote in favor of the Senate Finance Committee’s health reform bill? What would it mean going forward? Then there was the lone spotlight cast on Ron Wyden by none other than Jonathan Cohn, who interviewed him. Wyden wants to make the self-employed and small business insurance exchange available to everyone–something he’s calling “free choice”–but the amendment he introduced was voted down, and Wyden’s none too happy about that, because he thinks it will leave health care costs left to grow unchecked. So there was some speculation that he might vote against the bill.
Then the meeting came and went. Both Snowe and Wyden voted for the bill, and it passed by a margin of 14-9. In particular, Sen. Snowe expressed her views on the bill by saying “Is this bill all that I could want? Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.” But she also hedged her bets going into the floor vote and, hopefully, a conference committee bill, making it very clear that “My vote today is my vote today. It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.” I’m sure Democrats breathed a huge sigh of relief followed by a collective gulp. We’ll soon see if they continue to work hard to keep her on board. Every indication is that that will require keeping the bill’s CBO score very close to where it is now. (If you really want to get the scoop on the meeting, you should read the transcript of Katharine Seelye’s live blogging session.)
Folks, this is where it gets really interesting. Every major committee in Congress with authority over health care has passed a reform bill. Soon, we’ll see just two bills–one in the House and one in the Senate–and that should clear up a great deal of the confusion surrounding the various details of the plans. I’m looking forward to filling you in on that when it happens. For now, I’m just thrilled that the country has taken one more step in the right direction.