The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 13-10 along party lines on Wednesday to approve a $615 billion healthcare reform proposal.
It requires businesses with at least 25 employees to offer health insurance or pay a penalty, and contains provisions requiring individuals to obtain coverage, according to Bizjournals.com.
The bill also includes a government-run public option that would compete with private insurers, a provision opposed by congressional Republicans and groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business.
Senator Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, who presided over the committee vote, said it was more important to get what he believes is the right bill than to get GOP votes.
"There is a value in achieving bipartisanship but I will not sacrifice a good bill for that," he stated, quoted by the Associated Press.
The Democrats may indeed not need the GOP support as together with two independents they have at least 60 seats – the absolute majority – in the Senate.
On Thursday, it was House Democrats turn to work on their version of the legislation, which reportedly seeks to provide coverage to nearly all Americans by subsidizing the poor and penalizing individuals and employers who do not purchase health insurance.
Meanwhile, the National Center for Policy Analysis has called the bill a "1,018-page nightmare" that will force as many as 119 million people to lose their private health insurance and be forced into a Medicare-like plan.