Senate finance committee passes health care bill – but bigger battles still to come
Historic legislation to expand US health care dramatically and simultaneously control health care costs won its first Republican supporter during Tuesday’s Senate finance committee vote.
Moderate, independent-minded Maine senator, Olympia Snowe, broke party ranks to join 13 Democratic members on the committee to vote for the health care measure largely shaped by committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus. The final vote was 14-9.
In explaining her vote, Snowe said, “When history calls, history calls.” Her vote gives the Obama administration’s desire to remake health care at least the patina of bipartisan support. Obama called the vote “a critical milestone” adding, “We are going to get this done.”
This version now joins three other proposals from the House of Representatives and the Senate as both houses now gear up for full floor fights as well as an effort , further down the road, to reconcile the resulting measures between the two houses in a final bill that would go to the president for signature. Democratic Party unity will be crucial in the Senate with its tradition of allowing for unlimited debate on measures, unless at least 60 senators agree to close off debate.
Various interest groups – labour unions and business alliances among others – have already argued for changes in the middle-of-the-road measure structured by the finance committee under Baucus’ direction. Despite the hurdles remaining, however, this proposed measure has already moved further along than the embarrassingly unsuccessful effort proposed at the beginning of the Clinton administration under the direction of the then-first lady and her policy advisor, Ira Magaziner.
The next step, now, will take place in the Senate as the Democratic Party’s Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has already announced a full Senate debate will begin in 12 days. At least in theory, this debate will blend together with another heal