The Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 on Tuesday to pass its $829 billion healthcare reform proposal, clearing the way for a debate in the full House and Senate.
The plan would expand coverage to an additional 29 million Americans and create nonprofit healthcare cooperatives as well as health insurance exchanges to enable small businesses and individuals to buy insurance.
It also includes provisions to regulate the private insurance market, barring companies from dropping coverage for sick people or imposing lifetime limits on coverage.
Republican members of the committee remained unconvinced that the plan would not raise the costs of healthcare given its provisions to tax high-cost insurance plans and impose new taxes on the health industry in order to pay for the reform. The only Republican that voted with the Democrats was Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Snowe was quoted as saying that although she was not happy with all of the provisions of the bill, "the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress [taking] every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine praised the vote and stated that the U.S. is closer than ever to "enacting reform that [will provide] more security and stability to people who have insurance, more quality, affordable choices for those who don’t and [rein] in the high costs of healthcare for American families, businesses and our government."
Democratic leaders in each chamber are now going to blend together five pieces of legislation from various congressional committees in a single bill that can garner at least 60 votes in the Senate.