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Snowe comes through for our side; Reid says no filibuster allowed

From the diaries by Erick. . .

The Hill reports that Snowe is not signing on to the Baucus bill.

Senate Democrats are going to have to move forward on healthcare without a single Republican supporter after Sen. Olympia Snowe said Tuesday she could not back the Finance Committee’s bill.

Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed to win any Republican backer despite weeks of intense negotiations behind closed doors to strike a deal.

Snowe (Maine), who was one of three Republicans who backed the $787 billion economic stimulus package, was being lobbied heavily by the White House, and some centrists view her refusal to strike a deal with Baucus as troubling. But concerns about how the plan would be paid for prompted her to back away in the hours before its release.

“I do have concerns and I’m not sure they can be addressed before he issues [legislation] tomorrow,” Snowe said.

Axelrod is trying to get the Dems to unite. Reid says screw the GOP as he plans to use reconciliation (what a misnomer) when the time comes.

Faced with the prospect of having to pass legislation without Republican votes, Obama’s chief political adviser David Axelrod met with Senate and House Democrats on Tuesday to stress the importance of party unity on healthcare reform — a message most directly aimed at centrists who now are critical to its passage.

Democrats control 59 seats in the Senate. Without a single Republican vote, they would be forced to advance healthcare using a budgetary maneuver that requires only a simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Democrats are prepared to use budget reconciliation as a last resort.

“We’ve always had a place at the table for Republicans. There’s one there today. We hope it bears fruit,” he said. “If we can’t get the 60 votes we need, then we’ll have no alternative but to use reconciliation.”

Snowe stayed at the table with Baucus after it appeared Grassley and Enzi had all but bailed, but she is looking out for her constituents and sticking to her guns.

In August, Obama and Baucus narrowed their focus to winning over Snowe after it became clear that other Republican negotiators voiced sharp criticisms of Democratic proposals during the congressional recess.

A Democratic official with knowledge of those talks said a persistent sticking point has been Snowe’s concerns over how Obama and Baucus want to pay for the bill.

Baucus will introduce his healthcare legislation Wednesday and plans to mark it up in the Finance Committee next week. Democrats hope they can persuade Snowe to support the bill before the committee votes to send it to the Senate floor. Baucus told reporters Tuesday that he does not expect any Republicans to be on board prior to the markup.

“I think there will be Republican support when the bill is reported out, at the very latest,” he said. “It may be earlier there will be a Republican or two that will announce support.”

But of course if they win over Snowe, they’ll lose some liberals.

His effort to woo Republicans, however, has alienated liberals. At least one prominent liberal on his committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), plans to vote against Baucus’s plan.

“There is no way in its present form that I will vote for it,” Rockefeller said during a conference call.

Obama and Baucus have suggested paying for a big chunk of reform by levying new taxes on high-cost insurance plans. Specifically, Baucus has suggested a 35 percent excise tax on insurance plans that cost single individuals more than $8,000 a year and cost families more than $21,000.

Snowe’s problem with that plan is that it could impose a heavy tax burden on Maine, which has one of the highest average health insurance premiums in the country. A July study by Harvard economist David Cutler found that Maine, on average, has the fourth-most costly insurance premiums in the country, trailing only Connecticut, Delaware and New Hampshire.

Snowe said she is concerned about Baucus’s plans to tax high-cost plans. “I am, no question, because we are a high-cost state,” said Snowe.

Much more in the article about her concerns re affordability.

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