With a vote of 14-9 the Senate Finance Committee approved the proposed 10-year, $829 billion health care reform measure that has been under review over the past weeks and months. The reform measure aims to extend coverage to an additional 29 million Americans. Of note, Senator Olympia Snowe cast the only Republican vote (of the 10 Republicans sitting on the Committee) in favor of the reform. All 13 Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee voted in favor of the reform. Also notable, the bill approved today did not contain a public option plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will work to merge the approved Finance Committee bill with a bill passed by the Health, Labor and Pensions Committee--which was led by the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
The Senate bill will have to receive 60 votes from Senators (of 100 possible) to overcome a Republican filibuster. Though there are 60 Democratic Senators, certain moderate members such as Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) and Ben Nelson (Nebraska) may or may not vote in favor.
In the House of Representatives, Democrats continue to attempt to combine 3 health care reform bills approved by 3 different committees. The bill has not been popular with Republicans and is not expected to garner any Republican votes in the House. A simple majority (or 218 votes) is required for the bill to pass in the Senate---there are 256 Democrats, so likelihood of passage is strong.
In the White House, the goal is to sign a health reform bill by the end of 2009. It will be up to the White house to find middle ground between any House and Senate bills passed.
A thumbs up from the Senate Finance Committee keeps legislation moving, however, there are still a number of hoops to jump through before proposed law becomes reality.