The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 14-9 in favor of a bill to reform the U.S. health care system, marking a major step in President Obama’s plan to overhaul the $2.5 trillion industry and the first time a Republican has voted in favor of the legislation.
The lone Republican vote on the committee of 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans was cast by Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, ending months of speculation on whether she would break with her party.
“When history calls, history calls,” Ms. Snowe said in a statement to the committee. “I happen to think the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity … to solve the monumental issues of our time. There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey.”
The Finance Committee is the last of five congressional panels — three in the House and two in the Senate — to pass the legislation. The committee’s vote took health care reform further through the legislative process than it has ever gone.
The 10-year, $829 billion Finance Committee plan, widely seen as the most moderate of the plans on Capitol Hill, does not allow the government to compete with companies to sell insurance, which has become known as the “public option.”
The bill includes consumer protections such as limits on copayments and deductibles and relies on federal subsidies to help lower-income families purchase coverage. Insurance companies would have to accept all applicants, and people could shop for insurance within new state marketplaces, called exchanges.
Medicaid would be expanded. Though employers wouldn’t be required to cover their workers, they would have to pay a penalty for each employee who sought insurance with government subsidies. The bill is paid for by cuts to Medicare providers and new taxes on insurance companies and others.
The Finance Committee bill now will be merged with the more expansive version passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee before facing a vote on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who will take the lead on combining the chamber’s two measures, will need at least 60 votes to overcome a near-certain Republican filibuster. A final Senate bill would have to be reconciled with House legislation before going to President Obama’s desk.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said before the vote that Mr. Obama will wait until after the bills are merged before deciding on what to do next.
“Ours is a balanced plan that can pass the Senate,” Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman of the Finance Committee, said. “This is our opportunity to make history. Our actions here will determine whether we extend health care to more Americans.”
He also said committee members passed the bill after 61 hours of meetings, 79 roll calls and the adoption of 49 of 135 proposed amendments.
Mr. Baucus’ bill was able to garner a wide swath of Democratic support, from moderates to liberals, but nearly all Republicans remained starkly opposed to the legislation, warning that it would raise insurance premiums for people who have coverage.
“We were rebuffed at every step,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and the committee’s ranking GOP member. “We can now see the bill continues to move further to the left.”View Entire Story
'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Join the Communities and submit your column in response to one written, or on something totally new and unique. We want to hear from you
Entering the world of first time parents, there are lots of secrets unveiled.
Take a look at our pet friendly reviews and travel tips or find the best vacation deals and activities compiled by the The Washington Times Communities experts.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall