Senate Finance Committee passes healthcare reform billwith Snowes help

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The Senate Finance Committee voted today in favor of its version of proposed healthcare reform legislation in a 14-9 vote, including the approval of Olympia Snowe, R.-Me.

Each member of the Committee had an opportunity to speak on the bill--and healthcare reform generally--beginning at 10:00am this morning.

Committee Chair Max Baucus, D.-Mont., had opened the hearing, stating: “This is our opportunity to make history,” and reviewed the “exhaustive” process that brought them to this point of vote.

Snowe, who was considered the swing vote, supported the bill in its current iteration, but withheld agreeing to support future versions.

In a statement preceding the vote, she said: “Is this bill all that I would want? Far from it. But when history calls, history calls and I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.” Yet, she added that her “vote today is my vote today, it doesn’t forecast what my vote would be tomorrow.”

She became the first Republican in Congress to support a healthcare reform bill, as the four other healthcare reform bills that passed in House and Senate committees did not receive any Republican votes.

Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said that “[d]oing nothing is not an option;” a sentiment echoed by Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Jay Rockfeller, D-W.Va., implied that this version of healthcare reform legislation is just a beginning.

Conrad congratulated the bill’s lack of a government-sponsored healthcare insurance plan, or public option, and cited the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report of how the Finance Committee’s bill will reduce the federal deficit.

Late last week, the CBO released a preliminary analysis, estimating the bill would $829 billion in credits and subsidies over the next ten years.

The Finance Committee's top Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, gave voice to the GOP's concerns about the bill, saying it was “moving on a slippery slope to more and more government control of healthcare.”

John Cornyn, R-Texas, claimed the bill will cut Medicare and Medicaid services while raising existing healthcare insurance premiums. Other Republicans on the Committee expressed their worries that taxes will have to be raised to pay for the bill.

John Kerry, D-Mass., said that “it is fair to ask medical device manufacturers to bear some of the burden of the cost of the healthcare; however, I do not believe we have adequately assessed how much of a contribution these technologies make to decreasing the costs of delivering healthcare.” Kerry urged that this aspect of the legislation be revisited as the bill moves forward as he believes the current version asks for “too much” from medical device manufacturers.