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Olympia Snowe votes yes on healthcare overhaul, risking retaliation by fellow Republicans

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For months now, the White House has been courting Maine's Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.  A moderate politician from a moderate state, Snowe was essential to the administration's hopes to claim bipartisan victory on one of the thorniest domestic issues facing President Obama during his first year in office.

In today's Senate Finance Committee meeting, Snowe was the only Republican to support the bill by Max Baucus of Montana, which passed with unanimous Democratic support on a 14-9 tally. "The consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of moving a healthcare reform bill," she said. "When history calls, history calls."

But Snowe, who has served in Congress since 1979, warned that she might yet oppose the bill when it comes to the Senate floor later, particularly if subsequent versions contain a public option, which Republicans fear will cripple private industry, “My vote today doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow,” she said.

Snowe, 62, is a unique character on the national scene, one of the last East Coast Rockefeller Republicans, a survivor whose personal life was marred by failures in the healthcare system.

Olympia Bouchles was 8 years old when her mother died of breast cancer. Her father, a short-order cook, died of a heart attack less than a year later. Raised by an aunt and uncle with few means and six other children to support, she became a widow at 26 when her first husband, Peter Snowe, a state representative, was killed in a car crash. Winning the election for his seat, she has been in politics ever since, in 1989 marrying John McKernan Jr,, then the governor of Maine.

“Especially when you lose your parents at a young age, you definitely learn to pick yourself up and dust yourself off,” she told the New York Times recently. “You just have to keep working and moving and living. And, in my position, you learn to translate that empathy of your experience into legislation.”

She may need a lot of empathy in coming weeks, if Republicans decide to retaliate. Already some are talking about robbing her of appointment as the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, a perch that will open up when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison returns to Texas to run for governor.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Snowe and fellow Republican Orrin G. Hatch of Utah at today's Senate Finance Committee. Credit: Associated Press

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Senator Snowe is an idiot. Can she name a single government program that wasn't bigger and didn't run over budget? This is a vote against fiscal sanity, at a time of undeniable massive voter revolt against this socialistic grab from the private sector to make legalize all illegal aliens and massively tax ... well, everyone except the illegal aliens.

Amazing this is not a written bill but an outline of some 200pages. The bill will actually be written later after both versions are put togeather. I quess they will try to pass it thru the seanate at 3AM like they did with the House Bill

So proud of Snowe! She is always amazing at sticking to her principles, and what her constituents want and need, not what the party line dictates.

Senator Snowe enjoyed all the attention. What an ego. She knows better

Oh dear! A defunct political party is threatening retaliation. Who will be next to leave the sinking ship. Glub Glub GOP.

We are sure that there are a substantial number of persons who earn more than $250k, who are willing to pay their fair share of taxes. We also are sure that there is a substantial amount of CEO’s and Executives throughout our country whose earnings are outrages, whom in many cases take advantage of the American people. We all agree that our veterans, troops, and their family’s makes the ultimate sacrifice, and the American people have made sacrifices in tax dollars for bailouts of trillions of dollars, and from the previous administration deficits. We also know that the top 1% earners make more then the total bottom 95% of earners. So what is the problem? Why aren’t they paying their fair share of taxes? Shouldn’t the American tax payers recoup money that some CEO’s and Executives have stolen from us? Shouldn’t they make sacrifices along with the rest of us? We still also need a strong public health insurance option to start paying off our $11.9 trillion dollar national debt including the huge amount of interest compounded daily.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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