Washington– Legislation that would transform the nation’s healthcare system cleared a significant hurdle today, as the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 for a sweeping overhaul.
Just one Republican, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, voted for the bill. But that represented a victory for the White House, which had heavily courted Snowe, and it allowed overhaul advocates to claim that there was a vestige of GOP support for the measure.
"Is this bill all that I would want? Far from it," Snowe said in announcing her vote. "But when history calls, history calls."
The bill would require Americans to have health insurance, provide federal subsidies to help low-income workers buy insurance, establish new insurance marketplaces, regulate health insurer practices, and expand Medicaid. The plan as drafted is estimated to cost $829 billion over the next 10 years.
Some cast the vote in landmark terms.
"This is our opportunity to make history," said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). "Now is the time to get this done."
The long-anticipated committee vote sets the legislation up for debate on the Senate floor. But first its terms must be reconciled with those of a bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this summer.
"I never count chickens before they are hatched, but this is obviously another step forward,” President Barack Obama said after Snowe announced her support and the Senate Finance Committee was nearing its vote today.