GOP’s Snowe will vote for Democratic health bill
By ERICA WERNER – AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe broke with her party Tuesday and said she will vote for a Democratic health care bill, handing President Barack Obama a much-sought boost in his quest to expand access to medical coverage to all Americans.
Approval of the legislation by the Senate Finance Committee was a foregone conclusion going into Tuesday’s vote, since Democrats outnumber Republicans 13-10 on the panel. But Snowe’s decision gave the vote a significance that transcends partisan divisions. For months, congressional Republicans have been virtually unanimous in denouncing the Democratic bills as an unwarranted expansion of government influence.
The Maine senator kept virtually all of Washington guessing about how she would vote until she announced it late in the Senate Finance Committee debate Tuesday. She told her colleagues she has misgivings about the bill, but “when history calls, history calls.”
Democrats, aware that Snowe could be the only Republican in Congress to vote for their health care overhaul, have spent months addressing her concerns about making health care affordable and how to pay for it.
“Ours is a balanced plan that can pass the Senate,” declared Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. Health care legislation is expected to be on the Senate floor the week after next, said a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who must combine the Finance version with a more liberal proposal from the health committee.