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Senate Finance Reform Bill Approved

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, October 13, 2009

In a 14-9 vote, the Senate Finance Committee approved its 10-year, $829 billion healthcare reform measure Tuesday afternoon. As expected, the panel voted along party lines with only Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) crossing over to join the Democrats for this vote.

The bill was the end of a long road toward reform—starting nearly two years ago, according to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). It ended up with the panel considering 135 amendments, 79 roll-call votes, and adopting 41 amendments earlier this month.

But for the most part, the bill failed to gain the bipartisan support that Baucus had been seeking. "We made a good faith effort," said Baucus near the end of the nearly five-hour session on Tuesday afternoon.

While Snowe voted with the Democrats this time, she was careful to point out during the session that "my vote today is my vote today"--and that it doesn't predict what her "vote will be tomorrow." She said that there "are many miles to go in this legislative journey."

The session provided insights on what can be anticipated in the upcoming weeks as the bill is melded with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions bill before bringing it to the Senate floor--possibly by the end of this month.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said that the public option "is necessary" and that he will introduce legislation on the floor if it is not included in the combined Senate bill. "Maybe things would be different if the word 'public' wasn't there," he said.

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