By BVN Staff –
Historic legislation to expand U.S. health care and control costs won its first Republican supporter Tuesday and cleared a key Senate hurdle, a double-barreled triumph that propelled President Barack Obama’s signature issue toward votes this fall in both houses of Congress.
“When history calls, history calls,” said Maine Republican Olympia Snowe whose declaration of support ended weeks of suspense and provided the only drama of a 14-9 vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
With her decision, the 62-year-old lawmaker bucked her own leadership on the most high-profile issue of the year in Congress, and gave the drive to remake health care at least a hint of the bipartisanship that Obama seeks.
At the White House, Obama called the events “a critical milestone” toward remaking the nation’s health care system. He praised Snowe as well as Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the committee, and declared, “We are going to get this done.”
There were fresh challenges. Within minutes of the vote, labor unions and large business organizations both demanded changes in the bill, which was an attempt at a middle-of-the-road measure fashioned by the committee under Baucus’ leadership.
Still, nearly nine months after the president pledged in his Inaugural Address to tackle health care, legislation to expand coverage to millions who lack it has now advanced further than President Bill Clinton’s ill-fated effort more than a decade ago - or any other attempt in more than a generation.
The next move in the Senate is up to Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose office said the full Senate would begin debate on the issue the week of Oct. 26.