Senate Finance Committee Passes Health Care Reform Bill
Senate inches closer to floor debate.
On Tuesday, after months of bipartisan negotiations, the Senate Finance Committee reported its bill out of committee in a 14-9 vote. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) joined all committee Democrats in supporting the bill while the remaining committee Republicans voted against the bill. Snowe’s affirmative vote marks the first time a Republican has supported a Democratic health care reform bill in committee. Her vote also gives Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) a significant boost as negotiations progress with Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the contents of the yet-to-be-merged Senate bill. Senator Dodd is representing the HELP Committee, which reported its bill out of committee on a party line vote in mid-July.
Key sticking points in fusing the two Senate bills include whether or not to include a public option or a variation thereof, the scope of an employer mandate, the penalty level for the individual mandate and new taxes on Cadillac plans as well as the health insurance industry. Negotiations are expected to ensue for the next several days in hopes of having the merged bill on the Senate floor in late October.
With the Finance Committee’s proceedings concluded, all five congressional committees with jurisdiction over health care reform have now reported legislation out of their respective committees. The House Democratic Leadership is also continuing to work on its bill with the goal of having it on the House floor by late October or early November.