We can get more clues about what may come out of the back room by looking at who will be in the back room. Reid will be there, as will Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (who does not think there are enough votes for the “public option.” They will be joined by Sen. Chris Dodd from the HELP Committee — which is interesting. The HELP Committee chairman is Sen. Tom Harkin, who replaced the late Ted Kennedy, and has been a vocal advocate for the “public option.” There will be White House players, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, Director of Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro and White House-Senate liaison Shawn Maher.
And there will be… Sen. Olympia Snowe, who will bring her own agenda and tilt the negotiations in ways likely to give liberal Democrats heartburn. The decision to include her further signals the intentions of Reid (and likely the White House) about the shape of the merged bill, because now they have a Republican to blame for the compromises the moderate Democrats have probably sought behind the scenes. Indeed, Sens. Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor have adopted Snowe’s “wait and see” attitude toward any final bill, while Sen. Joe Lieberman says other centrist Democrats beyond the committee may also oppose a bill like the Baucus vapor bill. The moderate dems likely will be with their party on most procedural votes but could hold out on the last one — to end debate and cut off a filibuster.