As Jonathan reports, this is gut-check time for Democrats. But there was at least one piece of good news over a tough weekend. Here are some excerpted comments by Senator Olympia Snowe at a Saturday rally, again relayed to me via the good people at Health Care for America Now:
Congress must implement long overdue insurance market reforms such as the guaranteed issue of a policy for every American and no refusal or adverse pricing of policies on the basis of health status or gender. We also must insure that those plans include a very strong benefit package, from preventative services to comprehensive medical benefits. And offering extra assistance to families who need help in affording a plan must be part and parcel of any legislation.
I believe that the reforms we are creating will result in more competitive, affordable and innovative options for Mainers, yet we can all agree that we must not leave universal access to chance. That is why I also support a public plan which must be available from day one.
So I urge all of you here today to join me in partnership to secure for our nation that which every other developed nation already embraces, the provision of health security for all of its' citizens. The time has long come, and I promise you I will continue to work to move heaven and earth to make it happen.
To be clear, this isn’t quite as encouraging as it might appear. Senator Snowe’s vision of the public plan option is pretty anemic. She is one of many centrists pushing for more time, which may slow or kill the momentum for a timely bill. With every challenge facing us--the two most frightening being to secure financing and to keep the ball rolling in the face of GOP stalling tactics--it’s easy to forget one asset: Most Americans want health reform to pass. I’m never sure whether to take sympathetic comments by Republican moderates or others such as the American Medical Association at face value. It’s heartening that even when the going gets slow, these players don’t want to be seen as obstructing the process. And in Snowe’s case, I think the comments are genuine. She is not one whose prospects are advanced by the death of health reform. She’s one of that lonely group of Republicans who actually want their fingerprints on it.