LET IT SNOWE?…. If Democrats are going to need some Republican votes to pass a major health care reform initiative, it looks like they should start with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine.

Snowe hosted a “listening session” on health care reform this week and made it clear that she wants to support significant changes to the status quo. (thanks to reader A.F. for the tip)

Speaking to the members of the group before taking their testimony, Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the committee is determined to draft legislation by June and to have it ready for debate on the Senate floor by July. The last attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system was proposed in 1993 and dissolved in “polarization and partisanship,” she noted.

“I believe the climate in Washington is different now,” Snowe said. Recognition is widespread that the nation’s health care system is unsustainable, ineffective and inequitable, she said, and the current economic crisis is only making things worse.

“This is precisely the right time” for national reform, Snowe said.

Snowe added that she expects to see a vote in the Senate before the end of this year.

“We have a totally dysfunctional system now,” she said. While like most Republicans she would prefer to see the private sector collaborate on an effective change, a government-run health care system may be the only way to get the job done, she said. [emphasis added]

Now, that’s obviously a paraphrase, not a direct quote. But if Snowe really said this — the Bangor Daily News, which ran this report, has not run a correction — it seems like a pretty encouraging development.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.