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Snowe: Keeps Both Sides Guessing

As the lone GOP vote for the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform bill, Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) will continue to be courted by Democratic leaders looking for bipartisan support of their historic legislation. The centrist Pine Tree State Senator may also provide moderate colleagues such as Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) with some much-needed political cover during tough votes that are expected before Jan. 1.

Snowe’s support will be crucial in crafting a more moderate compromise bill that ultimately is expected to emerge in the coming weeks. When it comes to the controversial public insurance option, Snowe is a proponent of a “trigger,— making the public plan an option only if other reforms failed. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), another key moderate, has warned his caucus not to brush aside Snowe — and her trigger proposal — as the debate deepens.

“I think we as Democrats will rue the day if we don’t find a thoughtful way to make sure that Sen. Snowe’s central premise, perhaps modified … finds a home in the legislation that we finally vote on,— Carper said earlier this month.

Snowe has kept her Congressional colleagues guessing since she arrived on the Hill 30 years ago, compiling a dizzying voting record that’s run the ideological spectrum. For example, the AFL-CIO gave Snowe a 100 percent voting record last year, while the American Conservative Union graded her at 12 percent. In 2000, the powerful labor coalition gave her a zero percent grade, while she garnered an 80 percent score from conservatives.

“My vote today is my vote today,— Snowe told Roll Call following her recent Finance panel vote. “It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.—

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