Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Does Obama Like Olympia Snowe a Little Too Much?

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
Is Barack Obama truly gaga over Olympia Snowe? Washington -- and the rest of the nation -- might find out this week.

The latest shift in the ever-changing debate on health care reform is nudging the president into a position where he might have to choose between Snowe, his favorite Republican senator, and his own party.

Snowe appears to be the only GOPer in the entire Senate who may give Obama what he desires: bipartisan cover for health care reform. She was the sole Republican on the Senate finance committee to vote for the legislation. But her price for many Democrats is high: no public option. She has repeatedly said she cannot support a measure that would set up a government plan to compete with insurance companies (in order to keep the price of health insurance down). Snowe has proposed a trigger that would supposedly establish some sort of public option if insurance companies don't change their oligopolistic ways. But the key policy wonks who cheer a public option say Snow's trigger is connected to a gun that would shoot duds--if it's ever fired.

To keep Snowe happy, the White House--which technically supports the public option--is not pushing it. In fact, one Beltway advocate for the public option tells me that White House aides are lobbying Senate majority leader Harry Reid to keep the public option out of the version of the bill he hopes to finish crafting this week. The trouble is, most Democrats really want it in. And the momentum behind the public option--which draws majority support in recent polls--has been growing on Capitol Hill.

What a plot twist. This past summer, when all those Tea Party folks were screaming about "death panels" and a government takeover of the health care system (much of which is already run by the government; see Medicare), it did look as if the public option--and perhaps the entire bill--was about to flat-line. But now the prospects for both are a lot healthier. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is close to assembling a majority in the House for a reform bill that includes a strong public option. In the Senate, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jay Rockefeller--a scrappy New Yorker and a far-from-charismatic wealthy scion, truly an odd couple--have been gaining ground, as they've pressed for a public option. In recent days, a few moderate Dems who once scoffed at a government insurance plan have signaled that they might accept something resembling a public option. To appease them, Reid is weighing a public option that states could opt out of. (Snowe says she doesn't support such a plan.)

Reid doesn't need all of the 60 senators who caucus with the Democrats to embrace the public option. He only needs all of them to vote against the inevitable GOP-led filibuster. Afterward, those few Democrats skeptical of the public option would be free to vote against the actual legislation. But at that point, a health care bill with a government plan would likely pass with a simple 50-plus majority. (There's still the outside possibility that Reid will deploy a rarely-used procedural short-cut known as "reconciliation," which allows certain legislation to bypass filibusters.)

The question for Reid and the White House is, how important is Snowe? They could come up with different answers. If Reid can indeed keep his 60 votes together on a procedural vote (blocking the filibuster), he can tell Snowe to take a hike. But Obama may still want her Republican cred attached to the final bill. That would place him and Reid dramatically at odds. Complicating matters is Reid's political trouble back home in Nevada, where he is up for reelection next year. He may need the president's help there. So he might not want to tick off the White House. Then again, one local poll indicated that independent and Democratic Nevadans--whose votes he will need -- believe Reid is not sufficiently progressive. That means he may be in more peril if he abandons the public option.

Meanwhile, progressive policy advocates in Washington are becoming increasingly frustrated with the White House's fixation on Snowe. They see Reid moving closer to a bill with a public option--and the White House caring more about expropriating Snowe's brand than producing good policy.

Will Obama have to decide between a bill that gets one Senate Republican vote and a bill that includes the public option? This could be the week he confronts that tough call. To make it easy for themselves, Obama and his aides might even be rooting for Reid to fall short of a filibuster-busting majority. After all, if they are yearning for legislation that they can hail as bipartisan--even if it's as barely bipartisan as possible -- failure (Reid's, that is) may be their best option.

UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, Reid announced that his bill will include a public option with an opt-out for states.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly


Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>