Senate Finance Committee Passes Health Bill, But With Plenty Of Grumbling
The Senate Finance Committee yesterday became the fifth and final committee in Congress to pass a health care overhaul bill. The committee voted 14-9 in favor of the bill with Sen. Olympia Snowe, of Maine, joining all of the panel's Democrats to cast the sole Republican "yea" vote.
The Washington Post reports that the "package would spend $829 billion over the next decade to finance the biggest expansion of Medicaid in 40 years and to provide federal subsidies to 18 million people who otherwise would be unable to afford coverage. It would tax high-cost health plans, impose new penalties on employers and slash future spending on Medicare, the federal insurance plan for people older than 65." President Obama said the bill is "not perfect," but that the passage is a milestone. But labor unions, insurance companies and major business groups are against the bill, some saying it's too weak, others that it's too intrusive (Montgomery and Murray, 10/14).
Snowe was upfront about her qualms with the plan even as she voted "Aye." The Christian Science Monitor reports, "[H]er reservations along with those of many Democrats on the panel signal how tough it may be to hold that reform coalition through final floor votes." In comments during yesterday's hearing, she said, "My vote today is my vote today. It doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow" (Chaddock, 10/13).
The New York Times: "Aside from Ms. Snowe, no Republicans in Congress have publicly endorsed the bills in their current form. And Republican leaders are strongly opposed, saying the bills cost too much, raise taxes, cut Medicare and dangerously expand federal power." Senators on the committee spent hours questioning Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf on the costs in the bill (Pear and Herszenhor, 10/13).
The Los Angeles Times: "Floor debate could begin before the end of the month. Despite the committee's approval, key provisions of the legislation remain to be resolved, including whether the bill ultimately will include some form of a government-run health insurer, the so-called 'public option'" (Oliphant, 10/13).