Snowe: Reconciliation a Mistake

Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:42am

Moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said late Monday that it remains unclear to her whether President Barack Obama’s bipartisan health care summit will engender compromise, and joined her Republican colleagues in panning the administration’s newly released $950 billion reform package.

Snowe is one of just two Republicans in Congress to vote in favor of a Democratic health care bill at some point in the process and was a key GOP negotiator throughout much of last year until bipartisan talks in the Senate broke down. On Monday, Snowe was one of five Republicans to cross the aisle and support Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on a procedural motion to advance a Democratic jobs bill.

But Snowe, who long since joined a Republican filibuster of the Democratic health care agenda, said she remains equally unimpressed with this latest version of health care reform as introduced by Obama on Monday. Additionally, Snowe suggested the Democrats’ threat of pursuing reconciliation to pass health care is casting a pall over the president’s bipartisan summit on the issue, which is set for Thursday.

“I don’t see reconciliation as acceptable,” Snowe told reporters Monday, after the jobs bill vote. “I think that that’s a huge mistake, frankly — tactically, strategically and in terms of what is in the best interest of the American people. And I think that that would be a very important step, and gesture, if the president and the leadership removed it, rather than having that as sort of wielding this power, you know, by using an arbitrary tool for purposes that have not been heretofore used.”

Health care staff for the Senate majority has been quietly drafting a reconciliation bill in the event that Reid chooses to pursue the 51-vote tactic to avert the GOP filibuster.

Snowe said she needs to further review Obama’s health care proposal, which is based off of the Senate’s $871 billion package she opposed late last year. But she said it should serve only as a “first step in the process in how the summit transpires.”

“It’s not enough to say: ‘Here it is and hope you like it,'” Snowe said. “I understand if the president wants to put down a document, but that should not be the definitive document upon which a decision has to be based.”

“Maybe this is [Obama’s] way of saying: ‘These are the things that I support,'” Snowe continued. “But as long as it’s not drawing a line in the sand in terms of what is the final document. I mean, everybody starts with a document, that’s one thing. The question is whether there will be receptivity to respective views that are put forward at the summit. And I think that’s what the important issue is here.”

Snowe said she does not expect to attend the health care summit. She has not discussed health care with the administration since January.