All five Congressional Committees have passed health reform bills.
The Senate Finance Committee passed its version of the health reform bill just before 3 pm today by a vote of 14-9. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine was the only Republican to support the bill. All of the Democrats on the Committee voted for it.
The next step is for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to work with Senators Max Baucus of Montana and Chris Dodd of Connecticut to come up with a merged version of the two Senate bills. The question on the minds of many health reformers is this: How will Senator Snowe’s support for the Finance Committee bill affect the Senate leadership’s negotiations? Her support makes it much less likely that they will try to pass the bill under reconciliation which would only require 51 votes. This simplifies the process for passage, but it means they will have to get 60 votes for the bill. That may lead Democrats to put forward a more conservative bill than they would have otherwise. But if they think they need to hold Senator Snowe’s support to get to 60 yeses, her views may carry extra weight and she is more supportive of affordability measures than some of the moderate Democrats who have yet to publicly commit their votes. On the other hand, she’s been a consistent opponent of including a public option.
Negotiations on the merged bill are expected to wrap up this week – make sure your senators know what women want from health care reform.