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The Waiting Room

Here’s a quick wrap-up of today’s health care news.

After a tumultuous week that saw the release of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) long-awaited “Gang of Six” compromise health care reform bill, all eyes turn to gang-member Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who is almost certainly the only Republican on the committee — indeed, in the Senate — who might support the Baucus bill and provide a 60th vote to overcome a GOP filibuster. So what does Snowe think?

In an interview with The New York Times and CNBC, Ms. Snowe said that for her to support the bill, “there would have to be more subsidies” for low- and middle-income people and that she was trying to figure out how to pay for them.

Ms. Snowe said “the time has come” to pass comprehensive health legislation. But she added that it was important to get the policy and the details right, because they would affect every American.

While Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who also sits on the Finance Committee and has pledged to vote against the bill in its current form, said the GOP leadership is “bringing the hammer down” to convince Snowe not to support the Baucus bill, Robert Reich, former labor secretary during the Clinton administration, sees this as a good thing for progressives. Gaming out the politics in a post at TPM, Reich predicts that a “yes” vote from Snowe would end up pushing House Democrats — and the final bill — to the right:

That’s because it will embolden conservative and Blue Dog House Dems to threaten to vote against the far stronger bill that’s already emerged from House committees — which, in contrast to the Senate Finance bill, includes a public option, an employer mandate, significant expansion of Medicaid, and larger government subsidies to others with lower incomes. Pelosi knows she can’t get a single Republican vote, so has to count on the support of at least 218 out of 256 Democrats. That means winning over at least 38 conservatives and Blue Dog Dems — many of whom were elected from swing districts and some of whom face strong Republican challengers in 2010. With Baucus’s bill gaining momentum, or perhaps already having been passed, the conservatives and Blue Dogs in the House will demand a bill that’s closer to it. House progressives will put up a fight but there’s little question that the emerging compromise will be to the right of where the House is right now.

Yet another Finance Committee member, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has authored his own health care bill with Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), suggested to The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein that he is also unlikely to support the Finance bill, as is.

As it is currently written, the legislation doesn’t fit my definition of what’s needed for the middle class.

Sen. Mary Landrieu became the first Democrat to officially join the “Likely Opponent” column in TWI’s Senate Public Option Scoreboard, after she reaffirmed prior statements and told The New Mexico Independent that there was “very limited opportunity, if any, for me to support a public option.”

But all may not be lost. The Washington Post reports that Vice President Joe Biden, fresh off a trip to Iraq, is set to launch a push to drum up support for reform on Capitol Hill next week, as the Finance bill goes to the full committee for markup.

This post has been updated for clarity.

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