Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Senate Finance Committee approves health care bill with one Republican vote

This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Senate Finance Committee voted on Tuesday to approve legislation that would reshape the American health care system and provide subsidies to help millions of people buy insurance, as Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, joined all 13 Democrats on the panel in support of the landmark bill.

The vote was 14 to 9, with all of the other Republicans opposed.

Democrats, including President Obama, had courted Ms. Snowe’s vote, hoping that she would break with the Republican Party leadership and provide at least a veneer of bipartisanship to the bill, which Mr. Obama has declared his top domestic priority. Ms. Snowe was a main author of the bill but she had never committed to voting for it.

But shortly after 1 p.m., she announced that she was on board, in a speech that silenced the packed committee room and riveted colleagues on both sides of the dais.

“Is this bill all that I would want?” Ms. Snowe asked. “Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.”

In her speech, she said she still shared many of her Republican colleagues’ reservations about the legislation, and she pointedly warned Democrats that they could easily lose her support at any of the many legislative steps that still lie ahead.

“My vote today is my vote today,” she said. “It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.”

While I may not have been commenting on the health care debate over this past year, I have been watching the debate take shape. This is a huge, monster crisis with major stakes for everybody. Progressives want to model a new, public-provided health care system, possibly modeled after the British or Canadian public health care system. Big Insurance and Health Care Providers want to maintain the status quo on the current system. And as the recession sheds even more U.S. jobs, more Americans are finding their health care coverage either curtailed, or losing it altogether. We've seen congressional town hall meetings become disruptive by angry conservatives, who were bussed in by grass roots organizations funded by big corporations. Then there were the death panels, where Republicans accused President Barack Obama and the Democrats of rationing health care as a means of killing senior citizens. Then again, the Republicans have been opposed of everything that President Obama or the Democrats have introduced as legislation in Congress. The Republicans have shown themselves over this past year to be a Party of No.

But that has now slightly changed. We have one of the last few, remaining, Republican moderates to have actually voted in favor of this health care reform. Senator Olympia J. Snowe broke with the Party of No to approve the health care legislation in the Senate Finance Committee vote. If the bill comes before the entire Senate, Snowe may end up voting against it--especially if the House version of the health care bill provides some form of a public option, resulting in an angry compromise between the House and Senate versions. Either way, we have a bipartisanship bill of one Republican vote. That is going to be the best that the president, or the Democrats will ever get on this health care vote.

We'll see what happens next.