Breaking: Snowe defects on committee vote

Charles Grassley predicted that the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee would stick together on the final panel vote on the Baucus health-care overhaul plan.  Unfortunately, he didn’t reckon on colleague Olympia Snowe’s desire to make “history,” which apparently trumps fiscal responsibility and common sense.  Snowe will vote to pass the non-bill, giving Democrats some much-needed political cover:

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe says she will vote for a Democratic health care bill, breaking with her party on President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority.

The Maine senator kept virtually all of Washington guessing how she would vote until she announced it late in the Senate Finance Committee debate Tuesday. Until then, she told reporters, she had not even let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in on her secret. She told her colleagues: “When history calls, history calls,” even though she had some criticism of the bill.

History?  Certainly, we don’t often see Congressional committees passing summaries instead of writing legislation, so that’s one for the history books.  We also don’t often see Congress passing trillion-dollar bills in a rush, although to be fair, they managed to do it earlier with Porkulus — a bill on which Snowe also helped make “history”.  Unfortunately, we see Snowe often crossing over on critical votes, so that’s neither history nor a surprise.

This does give Democrats momentum on the floor.  Snowe’s approving vote makes it tougher for Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson to buck their caucus and oppose it.  Joe Lieberman’s opposition may make that a little easier, and a negative CBO score when the language gets written may push Snowe back into opposition.  It’s more likely, though, that the CBO won’t score it in time to make a difference in the floor vote on cloture.