Snowe troubled by funding of Baucus bill

Posted Sept. 16, 2009, at 10:01 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, one of the Senate Finance Committee’s Gang of Six, has long played coy about whether she would support the committee’s eventual bill.

She has said she would not support a straight public health insurance option, and instead pushed a “trigger” option, a fail-safe subsidized option that would kick in should the cost of health care not decrease.

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Snowe said as early as Tuesday that she would not support the bill Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., unveiled Wednesday, citing concerns about how the reform package would be funded. Baucus’ bill, which carries a price tag of $856 billion, is the cheapest plan for health care reform of the five bills that have been introduced.

Though she said she will not support the bill in its current incarnation, Snowe said in a statement Wednesday that she and the other members of the Gang of Six “fully intend to keep meeting, moving forward and continuing to work with the chairman during the committee process toward crafting a bill that I, and hopefully other Republican members of the Finance Committee, can support.”

She also said that committee members should have had more time to read the bill before Baucus made it public.

In a 2006 survey conducted by Project Vote Smart, a voter education project that tracks members of Congress’ voting records and political actions, Snowe said she did not support the following statement: “Providing health care is not a responsibility of the federal government.”

In the same survey, she indicated she did not support the implementation of a universal health care program to guarantee coverage to all Americans regardless of income.

One of Snowe’s sticking points in the recent health care reform negotiations has been her opposition to the inclusion of a public option.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement Wednesday that she has “concerns about the overall size and scope of the proposal and that it does not do enough to lower health care costs for all Americans.”

Nevertheless, she called the bill “an improvement over the House bill and the bill reported out of the Senate HELP Committee.” In her statement, Collins also praised some of the preventive care and incentives for accountability introduced in Baucus’ bill.

“I remain committed to working with my colleagues for a bipartisan bill that improves quality while reducing unnecessary cost,” she said. Like Snowe, Collins’ reservations stem primarily from the cost and scope of the bill, which Collins said “affects every American and one-sixth of our economy.”

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