Earlier today the Senate voted on the very first amendment to their health care reform legislation. It was an amendment offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) dealing with cost-sharing for women’s preventive care. It should have been a relatively uncontroversial amendment.

It passed with a near-party-line vote 61-39. Ben Nelson and Russ Feingold were the only two Democrats to vote against the amendment. The only Republicans who voted with the Democrats were Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and David Vitter. Vitter’s yes vote is a big surprise. The only reason I can think of is that he must be hurting with women in his re-election polls, and sees no reason to give Democrats another opening to attack him on that front.

The “yes” vote from Snowe and Collins is another indication that their votes remain in play. They might be seriously thinking about voting for cloture on the final bill, or at least want the Democrats to believe that. Supporting relatively uncontroversial amendments like Mikulski will at least give them the talking point that they have “worked to improve the bill on the floor.” Whether that will be used as an excuse for voting for the final bill, or as an explanation for why they spent months negotiating with Democrats and still voted “no,” has yet to be determined.

Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com