SNOWE TO SUPPORT SFC REFORM BILL…. Senate Democrats really sought Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) vote in advance of today’s Senate Finance Committee consideration of health care reform. Their efforts have apparently paid off — the moderate Republican announced this afternoon that she will vote with the majority today.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said Tuesday she would vote to approve the healthcare bill before the Senate Finance Committee.

Snowe joined the committee’s Democrats to vote in favor of Chairman Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) health reform proposal, characterizing her vote as a move to support moving forward with landmark healthcare reform.

This does not necessarily mean she’ll vote for reform on the Senate floor, after the Finance Committee bill is merged with the Senate HELP Committee bill. Snowe wasn’t especially subtle on this point today, reminding her committee colleagues, “My vote today does not forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.”

In other words, too many meaningful changes to the Baucus plan will push Snowe away. The Maine senator apparently intends to keep the changes to a minimum as Senate leaders merge the two committee bills.

With that in mind, Snowe has positioned herself as still the member whose opinions will help dictate the process. There was some talk that Snowe would lose her leverage if she backed the Baucus framework today — if she were considered a “yea” vote for reform, Snowe would lose influence in the ongoing negotiations and Dems would stop trying to give her everything she wants — but that’s clearly not the case.

So, is this good news or bad? A bit of both, actually. When the committee approves the bill, it will be a “bipartisan” success, giving reform some additional momentum as it moves towards the floor. It also offers the center-right Dems some cover they’ve long sought. What’s more, as Ezra noted, Snowe may hold disproportionate sway over the outcome, but all things being equal, that’s probably preferable to Ben Nelson being the one driving the process.

On the other hand, Noam Scheiber makes a compelling case that Snowe may not use all of her power for good: “Just imagine the atmospherics of Olympia Snowe getting up on the Senate floor and saying she was so serious about passing health care reform she already voted for it, but that she can no longer support the bill because it’s moved too far to the left. It would be absolutely devastating.”

Snowe, not incidentally, reiterated her opposition to a public option this afternoon, right before announcing her support for the Finance Committee bill.

Steve Benen

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.