A key Senate panel voted in favor of an $829 million health care proposal that would expand insurance coverage to an additional 29 million people and be paid for with taxes and cuts to Medicare. Much of the support from members was conditional, however, and passage by the full senate remains uncertain.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 14 to 9 in favor of the bill and among those who supported it was Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate whose backing is considered somewhat of a victory for Democrats.
But Snowe, along with many other members who voted for the package, said her future support will depend on how the legislation is melded with a much more liberal proposal, which has no bipartisan support and would create a public insurance option that the GOP and many moderate Democrats oppose.
The Finance Committee bill calls for the creation of insurance exchanges as well as a privately run insurance co-operatives. It would expand Medicaid coverage to all non-elderly adults earning less than 133 percent of the poverty level.
Democrats were able to garner enough support for passage from fiscally moderate Democrats including Blanche Lincoln, of Arkansas, in part because of a favorable score from the Congressional Budget Office, which found that the bill would cut the deficit by $81 billion over the next decade.
Democrats also won critical support of Sen. Jay Rockerfeller, D-W.Va., who had threatened to oppose the bill because it lacked the public insurance option.
“I'm going to vote for this bill because I think that in spite of a lot of problems I have with it, I think the dialogue is now for real, it has been set in place.”