Time for Democrats to Cut Snowe Loose on Healthcare Reform

The Republicans want to filibuster? Break out the cots.

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By Jamie Stiehm, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Don't let the nation wait on the Lady from Maine anymore—to borrow a phrase for the late great Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

Delightful as Maine Senator Olympia Snowe is, as moderate a Republican as she may be, Democratic senators—and the president—have tarried too long trying to please and persuade her to be on their team when it comes to universal healthcare reform. They should stop courting her now and act like confident team players who don't need one senator to cross party lines. On Capitol Hill, it's clear the lady from Maine has frozen out the Democrats.

Democrats now have nothing to show for their efforts with Snowe except goose eggs. Neither Snowe nor any other Senate Republican has moved forward to break the impasse over a public option. Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, frittered away weeks of precious time with Snowe this summer and she never melted. Similarly, Baucus reached out to Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who dashed Democratic suitors once let loose in the cornfields of his home state. "Pull the plug on Grandma" turned out to be the thanks they got from Grassley.

Baucus isn't the only one to blame for this futile strategy of courting one, two, a few Senate Republican votes for healthcare. He had to have some blessing from on high. At any rate, Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, went along with the chairman's prerogative. President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden, both Senate graduates, felt they could rub some shoulders, shine their light, and work their will.

Even if Senate Democrats do pick up a vote from Snowe, she doesn't bring anyone with her from her side. She's not even that close to Susan Collins, her fellow Republican from Maine. Her fellow Senate Republicans respect her, but they don't follow her legislative lead.

Last, I can promise you the American people don't care much about Olympia Snowe's vote, as long as a healthcare bill is passed into law. They really don't care if it's "bipartisan" or not—as long as the deal is done. Lawmakers have such a complex about winning a few votes from across the aisle that they sometimes squander the momentum they need for victory.

And all the pundit palaver about 60 votes to win? That means a real live filibuster, ladies and gentlemen—cots and everything. Let's just see if the Senate Republicans are in the mood to stay up all night speaking on the floor against healthcare reform. Let's see if they care to stand up and be counted. If so, that is exactly when we might see Snowe melt.

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