Olympian Vote—for Healthcare
Debbi K. Swanson Patrick
Three weeks ago Obama is hosting a controversial slate of leaders in New York at the UN, loses a bid for the Olympics, then he’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and now, an $829 billion healthcare bill is on its way to the senate. Been a heck of a few weeks.
One vote stood out in the healthcare bill passage, that of Republican Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. The more I learn about this woman, the more impressed I am. Yet what does the Huffington Post have to say about it? Well immediately below their headline about this momentous occasion, they pondered what she would WEAR for the occasion. Really?
Then I realized that this attention is an honor to a woman who has endured, overcome, and achieved much. This attention to wardrobe is a far cry than that paid to that Alaskan “rogue” who had to have the Republicans buy her a decent set of clothes. This attention is more in line with commentary on other women of note, Jackie Kennedy and Michele Obama. The comments about Ms. Snowe reflect her demeanor, her class, her composure, her fierce dedication to her work—and a collection of impressive suits that “suit” her hard-won status.
She has overcome the childhood loss of her parents and her first husband, and separation from one brother, to be the only woman selected in 2006 by Time as one of “America’s 10 Best Senators. She’s been praised for her sensitivity to her constituents and Time noted: “Because of her centrist views and eagerness to get beyond partisan point scoring, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe is in the center of every policy debate in Washington.”
And, according to Wikipedia, Snowe did not miss any of the 657 votes on the Senate floor during the 110th Congress from 2007 to 2009, one of only eight senators to do so. Govtrack.us reports she’s only missed 34 of 7701 votes since 1990. She is the fourth woman to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the first to chair its seapower subcommittee, which oversees the Navy and Marine Corps. In 2001, Snowe became the first Republican woman to secure a full-term seat on the Senate Finance Committee.
Snowe was the youngest Republican woman ever elected to the United States House of Representatives; she is also the first woman to have served in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of the U.S. Congress. Additionally, she is the first Greek-American congresswoman. With her 1989 marriage to McKernan, she became the first person to simultaneously be a member of Congress and First Lady of a state. She has a strong face, serious and also joyful. She has never lost an election in 35 years.
As for the vote, no, it would’ve passed without her support. Her vote is a moral one, consistent with past votes that broke the Republican line.
This from the New York Times: “Is this bill all that I would want?” Ms. Snowe said. “Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.”
Ms. Snowe’s remarks silenced the packed committee room, riveted colleagues and thrilled the White House. President Obama had sought her vote, hoping that she would break with Republican leaders and provide at least a veneer of bipartisanship to the bill, which he has declared his top domestic priority.
Mr. Obama, speaking in the Rose Garden, described the committee’s action as “a critical milestone” and declared, “We are now closer than ever before to passing health reform.” But he added: “Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. Now is not the time to offer ourselves congratulations. Now is the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done.”
With its vote Tuesday, the Finance Committee became the fifth — and final — Congressional panel to approve a sweeping health care bill. The action will now move to the floors of the House and the Senate, where the health care measures still face significant hurdles.