Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the wild card in the Senate Finance Committee, joined committee Democrats to pass a reform proposal today, though she cautioned that her support was not without conditions and that she may reverse her position once the full Senate considers a bill.
The final vote was 14-9. All committee Democrats supported the proposal, while the Republicans voted against it, with the lone exception of Snowe.
The proposal will now have to be merged with a more liberal version reported out of the Senate health committee before moving to the Senate floor.
“When history calls, history calls,” Snowe said earlier today, announcing her decision to support the bill. Her words echoed opening comments by Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who said today’s session is a historic moment.
The American health system’s spiraling costs are “really akin to the Titanic and turning the Titanic around before it hits an iceberg,” she said. “The difference is, the chairman — ah, captain — did not know there was an iceberg. We do.”
Snowe said she shared her fellow Republicans concerns about government intervention and touted her opposition to an amendment that would have created a public option.
But, she also noted her work with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on making insurance more affordable and limiting penalties on those who do not buy it. She said she remained concerned about those issues and hoped lawmakers would address them on the Senate floor.
In the meantime, she said, Americans are ready to move forward, and that is why she plans to support the bill. “The status quo approach has produced one common denominator. We are facing a problem that is growing worse, not better.”