Snowe: Public Option Blocks Consensus

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., on "Face the Nation," Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009.
Moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said a public option in the health care bill is "universally opposed by all Republicans in the Senate" and called it "a roadblock to building the kind of consensus that we need to move forward," on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

"[T]herefore, there's no way to pass a plan that includes the public option," she told host Bob Schieffer.

She said that the president "should be more specific" on where he stands on the public option, and called David Axelrod's assertion earlier on the program that he would "not be willing" to accept a proposal without it "unfortunate."

She said flexibility on the public option could lead to compromise in the Senate on other issues, but lamented that the president has made the debate "unpredictable."

Snowe was the first to recommend the possibility of the trigger option which would set a deadline for insurance companies to provide affordable coverage, though she admitted, "It's not on the table" in the Senate Finance Committee. "And it won't be."

"We'll be using the co-op as an option at this point, as the means for injecting competition in the process," she said.

The Senator may find herself in a situation where she is the only Republican who votes for the committee's proposal. Schieffer asked whether she would be comfortable being the only one in her party to vote in favor.

"I'll do what's right based on what is the right policy," she replied, "but I think it is important to build support. And that's what I'm looking for."

In the Senate, "we debate the issues, we don't debate political philosophies," she said, adding that "I view time as our ally, not as an enemy, so we can build that support."

She definitively said that at this point a plan which included a public option could not pass the Senate.

Finally, Schieffer asked the long-time Senator what she thought about the disruptions from Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), among others, at the president's speech Wednesday night.

"It was an unfortunate and disgraceful incident that occurred in the House of Representatives. I've served 16 years here and I've never witnessed that," she said. "It brings disrespect to the institutions and to elected officials."