Dec 21, 2009 12:20 pm


Olympia Snow Faced The Nation and told Bob Schieffer a story he did not wish to hear:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Why in the end did you decide you couldn't do it?

SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, Bob, at this point anyways, I deeply regret that because I-- frankly, I've been fully immersed in this process for a better part of the year, both my staff and myself, because I'm committed to health care reform. I believe that the current situation is unacceptable and unconscionable when you think about rising health care costs. And that's why as the only Republican on the Finance Committee I voted for legislation. I did have some problems with that particularly legislation but I said at that time the credibility of the process going forward would determine the credibility of the outcome.

So here we are today with a bill that's dramatically different, more expansive than the Finance Committee. In fact, it's twelve hundred pages more than the Finance Committee legislation. It was placed on the floor just short of three weeks ago. Four hundred amendments and only two dozen have been considered voted upon. And four hundred members are not unusual since each of the committees that considered the legislation have had more than five hundred amendments.

Then, um, less than twenty-four hours yesterday we get a four-hundred-page amendment that was filed by the Senate majority leader. We are scheduled to vote on that major amendment fifteen hours from now, one o'clock in the mo-- morning, with no opportunity to amend it. All to get done, the entire bill, with no opportunity to amend it to change it by Christmas, so that we can adjourn for a three-week recess for a bill that doesn't become implemented until 2014.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what was the tipping point for you? What was it that happened that made you say I just can't do it?

SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, I sorted through a number of issues. I have been in countless meetings, um, every-- meetings and telephone calls, meetings with the President, meetings with the majority leader, and a number of people across-- across the aisle without question. The problem is the bill became bigger. A-- the-- it-- it has the CLASS Act which is a whole new entitlement that, frankly, will-- will-- be-- turn in the red five years after the benefits begin.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Now, what is that?

SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: It's a-- it's for a long-term care insurance and it's a whole new entitlement. In fact, half of those revenues that will be set aside for a-- a vesting period will be used to calculate the deficit reduction over the next ten years. That's where they derive half of their deficit reduction. Then you have a whole new layer of taxes, the Medicare payroll tax and we have good tax subsidies and I applaud Senator Landrieu, that you'll be hearing from in a moment, on those tax subsidies for small businesses.

But on the other hand you have a one-percent Medicare payroll tax on small businesses affecting them disproportionately at a time we're depending on them to create jobs to lead us out of this recession. It-- it's not indexed for inflation. It's a sixty-two percent increase. So, this will be devastating for small business as well. I have submitted a CBO letter a-- on December 3rd with substantial questions on what is the premium cost for every American who'll be participating in the exchange, what-- what can they expect.

As they’re sitting around their kitchen table, they expect certain answers to certain questions. We don’t have those answers to those questions. And that’s why I indicated to hold off. I said to the president and I said to the Senate majority leader and others, please, give us the time; come back after the new year; get together. This is a generational issue that has substantial effects with-- in fact, I would say sweeping effects--


SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: --because you’re coun-- recalculating one-sixth of our economy.


SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: And, frankly, we’re treating it as if it’s the legislative appropriations at the end of the year. It’s like the last train leaving the station; we’re going to dump everything in there.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this. It’s my understanding that, even after Leader Reid announced that he had the sixtieth vote, the sixty votes he needs, you s-- met again with President Obama. What was-- what was that about?

SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: Correct. The President, you know, and I have-- have worked together on this issue. And I applaud him for, you know, his knowledge, his grasp of the issue. It’s his major and highest domestic initiative, on this issue, and he wants to get it done this year, and encouraging me to support the legislation. And as I indicated to him, I’ll continue to work through our House and Senate conference but the legislation that is pending, this process denies us the ability to thoroughly and carefully and deliberately evaluate what is at stake. I mean, we’re talking about reordering thirty-three trillion dollars over the next ten years.

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Well, do you-- was the reason for this meeting was he asking you to vote for this thing when it comes out of conference? Is that what it was?

SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: No, it was the pending legislation.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But you told him you couldn’t?

SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: That I had-- yes, that I had problems, because the process is denying me and others, for that matter, the opportunity to amend it, on a big bill.

Why Christmas? There’s no-- there’s no magic deadline. This"beat the clock" is really overruling--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Let me ask you--

SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE: --legislative sanity.

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