Olympia Snowe knows how to bargain, which anyone considering her yes vote on Baucus bill (which passed 14-9 today) needs to keep in mind. Her yes vote does a couple of things. It keeps the Baucus bill relevant, and she remains a key focal point in the debate, as Ryan Grim notes:
"Is this bill all that I would want? Far from it," said Snowe. "Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls, and I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time."
Snowe's statement came several hours before a scheduled committee vote.
"My vote today is my vote today. It doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow," she said. It does keep her at the negotiating table and at the center of the debate; Snowe risked marginalizing herself if she voted no.
Snowe is well aware of the math. Her vote, she said, comes with knowledge that Democrats don't need Republicans to pass the landmark legislation.
"The majority has the votes. It has the votes in the House. It has the votes in the Senate. So it shouldn't be about the mathematics of vote-counting, but rather the mechanics of getting the best policy," she said.
By voting yes, Snowe remains relevant--the Baucus bill passes with that shiny "bipartisan" sheen that seems still to matter to in Washington. But don't forget that she has her finger on the "trigger"--her trigger that would kill the public option. As BTD says, she's kept the Baucus bill alive, and through it the best chance of a making what now seems inevitable--reform of some kind--as watered down as possible.
The majority does have the votes to pass this without her, and she's basically threatening them to do just that, calculating that keeping her name attached to reform will be the goal for the negotiators. Those negotiators should actually take her up on that threat, and craft a bill that could pass without her. Their larger hurdle remains the House Progressive Block, which isn't backing down from it's insistence on real reform.