WASHINGTON: Conservative Republicans have begun sending bags of salt to Olympia Snowe’s Maine office as part of a protest at her decision to break ranks and vote for a compromise version of Barack Obama’s health-care scheme.Salt is used on US roads to melt snow.”Olympia Snowe has sold out the country. Having been banished to our world after Aslan chased her out of Narnia, Snowe is intent on corrupting this place too. So we should melt her,” said one of the organisers of the rock salt protest.At this stage, Senator Snowe is the only Republican to support the bill but the other Maine senator, Susan Collins, may join her, depending on what emerges from the next several weeks of negotiations among the authors of the five versions now in existence.The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, called for weeks of debate on such an important bill, noting that the Senate had spent seven weeks on education legislation and a month on the farm bill.Initially there had been hopes the bill might be passed before the December recess but most strategists now believe early next year is more realistic.Meanwhile, lawmakers are bracing for a massive campaign from all sides of the debate, from insurers, doctors, patient groups, unions, senior citizens’ groups and drug companies.According to estimates, more than $US120 million ($130 million) has already been spent on TV advertisements lobbying for or against reform but that could easily double before the legislative process is complete.Meanwhile, the Democrat Senate leader, Harry Reid, will have his work cut out convincing some conservative Democrats to support even the compromise bill.”There are many competing views on how best to reform health care within my caucus,” he said. ”I know this isn’t going to be easy.”But the former president Bill Clinton expressed optimism that health-care reform – something that eluded him – would get through this time.”Republicans can’t filibuster in the Senate,” he said.”If there were 45 Republicans in the Senate, Senator Snowe’s vote wouldn’t matter … This time the numbers are different. We have Snowe and if we don’t lose any Democrats … then ‘Katy, bar the door!’ ” he said.