POSTED: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - 7:11am
UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:59pm
Health care reform is set to take its next step on Capitol Hill, now that the Senate Finance Committee approved what many see as the template for a final bill. President Obama called it a critical milestone.
Almost immediately democrats and republicans demanded changes to the reform plan. But supporters and the president hope the vote of one republican sets the stage for compromise.
Maine's Olympia Snowe is health care reform's first republican yes vote. Unlike others, Snowe's vote was not known even to the president. "I want to particularly thank Senator Olympia Snowe," said President Obama.
His top cause now advances with critics unable to call reforms just partisan. "We are now closer than ever before to passing health care reform. But we're not there yet," the President said. Five reform plans in Congress now must be merged into one.
Only the Baucus plan meets the president's goals. "It lowers the federal deficit, ends insurance industry discrimination, expands coverage and improves quality," said Senator Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
All but Snowe, committee republicans said their goals were ignored. "Spending more and taxing more without covering more people," said republican Jim Bunning of Kentucky. Proposed GOP amendments were rejected.
"There were about three of them that dealt with medical malpractice reform," said republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. Republicans say they're not done trying to change the bill. Some democrats are also determined. "If you think we're not going to get a public option, then you've got to, you've got to go to radio," said West Virginia Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller.
Senator Snowe had a warning for both saying her support is not a lock. "My vote today is my vote today. It doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow," said Snowe. Talks begin right away on what reform version goes to the senate floor.
Expect a big fight among democrats over whether it includes a public option.
Debate in the full senate starts later this month, top democrats expect a final health care reform bill by Thanksgiving.