SNOWE FALLS ON OPT-OUT COMPROMISE…. The opt-out compromise on the public option seems to be gaining some momentum. Brian Beutler asked Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) this afternoon if it’s a proposal she might be able to support.

“I don’t support that,” Snowe said.

Asked further whether she would participate in a filibuster on a bill with a public option, she went almost all the way.

“I’ve said, I’m against a public option…yes…it would be difficult” to support allowing the bill to proceed to a vote.

For all the talk about Snowe’s moderation and commitment to reform, she’s still a Republican opposed to the idea of insurance companies facing competition and giving Americans a choice.

Indeed, it’s worth appreciating how extreme Snowe’s position really is. Most Americans like the idea of giving eligible consumers a choice between a private and a public insurance plan. Snowe doesn’t want consumers to have the choice. As a compromise, Democrats have said states would have the option of not participating in the public insurance plan. Snowe doesn’t want states to have the choice to give its residents a choice.

And Snowe’s opposition is so intense, she’s inclined to stop the Senate from even considering the bill at all, even if a majority of the country and a majority of the Congress thinks it’s a worthwhile idea.

But if Dems agreed to put off the public option until some vague and undefined “trigger” standards kick in, then Snowe might agree to let the Senate vote on health care reform.

This just isn’t rational. Snowe has demonstrated a genuine interest in health care reform, and that’s admirable. But she’s willing to defeat a bill she would otherwise consider based on a single provision that most Americans wouldn’t be eligible for anyway? Is the popular policy idea really so offensive that it’s worth killing the entire initiative, decades in the making, and letting this once-in-a-generation opportunity pass?

As Matt Yglesias asked last week, “Are moderate members really so fanatically devoted to the interests of private health insurance companies that they would take a package they otherwise support and kill it purely in order to do the industry’s bidding on one point?”

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.