Saturday, August 29, 2009

Snowe Job

The Democrats are trying to get at least one Republican — Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine — to work with them on healthcare reform.

This has given Ms. Snowe a high degree of leverage as Democrats ask, What does Olympia Snowe want?

The senator, a centrist from Maine who is no stranger to breaking with her party on policy, said she was still working out the answer, though she said the August recess had led her to believe that Congress might have to scale back its health care expectations.

Ms. Snowe says she wants the public to understand that there is a serious problem, that the health care system is in crisis and that even people who are happy with their current coverage will not stay content for long, given rapidly rising costs and steadily shrinking benefits.

“They may say they are satisfied now,” the senator said in an interview, “but it is going to get worse, given the skyrocketing increases that are only going to persist. Something needs to be done to remove the deep anxiety that people find themselves in because of the lack of health insurance.”

As for the details, Ms. Snowe has been the rare Republican willing to show any interest in a public health insurance plan as an option, though she favors a trigger to institute such a government-operated program only if private health insurers do not make coverage more affordable.

Whatever comes out of the negotiations, what is remarkable is that Ms. Snowe is willing to work at all with the Democrats and the White House on this. Contrary to the now-mainstream Republicans who vow to shut down any version of healthcare reform even if it came with candy and a stripper or have yet to come up with anything of their own, she is doing what senators and representatives are supposed to do: put the people of her state and the needs of the country ahead of campaigning for re-election.

What a shock.