Health bill clears major hurdle

In a 14-9 vote Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee approved Chairman Max Baucus’ $829 billion health care bill, sending it to the Senate floor for debate and setting the stage for a pivotal showdown in the overhaul of U.S. health care.’

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill, said it is far from perfect, but the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress in solving this historic problem.

‘ ‘People do have concerns about what we will do with reform, but at the same time they want us to continue working and that is what my vote to report this bill out of committee today represents,’ Snowe said at the committee meeting.’

Snowe voiced her opposition to a government insurance option and any plan that would raise costs, saying that her vote today does not determine her vote tomorrow.

‘ ‘Before I vote on a motion to proceed to consider the unified bill, the merged bill between the (U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) and the finance committee, I certainly think we should have a final (Congressional Budget Office) score on the statutory language that is available on public Web sites so everybody has a chance to review it,’ Snowe said.

The major difference between the bills is that the finance bill does not include the public option, which is the sticking point for Republicans, UH assistant professor of political science Brandon Rottinghaus said.

‘ The bill has a long way to go, as it needs to pass through the Senate. But before it does so, the speaker of the House must negotiate within the legislation, Rottinghaus said.

Also, the Senate majority leader must find a way to merge the bills, which are in some ways different, so that they can debate the legislation.

‘ ‘The Senate majority leader is going to have to figure out if they want to risk there being defections because they’ve got a very thin margin of people in the Senate to work with,’ Rottinghaus said, ‘so they’re going to have to take a pretty serious gamble as to whether or not they want to include that (public option) as part of the process.’

The Democrats’ margin for error in the Senate is thin, Rottinghaus said.’

If the same kind of political jockeying seen during the past few months holds constant, we will definitely see some conservative Democrats who are worried about reelection jumping ship, Rottinghaus said.

Each Democrat who switches sides must be replaced, which means reaching across the aisle to Republicans who have not liked that option, Rottinghaus said.

‘ ‘It seems like there are avenues where the legislation can pick up some votes on the Republican side of the aisle,’ Rottinghaus said.’

‘So my guess is that they’re going to try to keep the public option off, because they think that they can still get legislation that is good generally in the Democrats’ interest, but also that can be accepted by at least a handful of Republicans.’

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