Senator Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was the only Republican to vote for Chairman Max Baucus' $829 billion health care bill — she spoke to Charlie Gibson in an exclusive interview on tonight's World News. We've posted the full transcript and video of the interview below.
Gibson: And Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine joins us tonight. Senator you are now the only Republican House or Senate to vote for any of the health care reform bills that are out there. What do you know that your fellow Republicans don’t?
Snowe: Well I think that the honest difference is of opinion, but I do happen to believe that we have to move the process forward on this very difficult and challenging issue. Understandably people do have honest philosophical differences, but I think there’s a lot to build on with this legislation that after all was part of the group of six, three Democrats and three Republicans, for almost four months of very intensive discussions on a daily basis and on a weekly basis. So it clearly, I think, had built some momentum that makes it possible to construct a bipartisan package hopefully.
Gibson: The President went out of his way to praise your one vote. Does one Republican vote really signify any kind of true bipartisanship?
Snowe: Well, obviously not sufficient. We need to have more. We need to have support of the Democratic senators for example, who also can play a very pivotal role in this regard. I think in building upon some of the issues and where we have to make significant improvements in this legislation, so I think that if we can work continuously together looking at the issues having an honest discussion about the issues and what works what doesn’t work, that’s what it’s going to take. I think for so long the art of legislating has been lost here in Congress and it’s all about just moving it along on the fast track, and I think that unfortunately the big issues have been set aside.
Gibson: You said today your vote today was only your vote today and it might not signify your vote tomorrow. What would cause you to pull back? What does that mean?
Snowe: That would mean significant costs were added to the bill or significant taxes. If some issues aren’t addressed such as affordability, we still have to work on that issue making sure Americans have affordable health plans. They do under this legislation, but we need to do more and to be certain of that. And finally, of course, the public option. That is not an area I have agreed to. I don’t want government at the outset of the process. It really could shut off the private sector. I think the private sector can do a lot because of the market reforms that we included in this legislation that will compel them to live up to a standard.
Gibson: In a couple of seconds, Jon Karl said there is so much work yet to be done in reconciling House and Senate bills. Do you think we’re closer to health care reform tonight than we were 24 hours ago?
Snowe: Oh absolutely. I think that it’s at least demonstrating the art of the possible, if everybody’s willing to pull together and to work through the issues and not drive it through arbitrary timelines, which I’ve said initially as well when we began this process. I really do think we have to give it the time that it deserves and takes. It’s what the American people understand and they’d feel better about it in the final analysis.
Gibson: Senator Snowe, thanks for being with us tonight.