GOP's Snowe votes 'yes' on health bill

October 13, 2009 7:33:08 PM PDT
Health care reform legislation took an important step forward Tuesday -- for the first time a Republican voted for it. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) sided with the Democrats on the Senate finance committee.

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Snowe's vote holds out a promise of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, but it also complicates the picture for Congressional Democrats who wanted the legislation to do more.

A smiling Max Baucus got what he wanted -- at least one Republican vote.

"Was this bill all that I would want? Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls history calls," Snowe said.

The $829 billion plan will require Americans to carry health insurance and provides subsidies for those who need it. But in an effort to defeat the bill the health insurance industry released a report this week saying family premium are going to rise by as much as $4,000 a year.

"It's going to cost more because it's not making insurance mandatory health insurance, mandatory for everybody," insurance broker Daniel Masarsky said.

Masarsky says if young people are not forced to buy in; insurance companies will have to charge more to cover older and more costly customers.

"We're going to have to somehow pay for these sick people who have high healthcare bills," Masarsky said.

The legislation passed Tuesday does mandate that everyone buy in, but the fine for failing to is a couple of hundred dollars, not enough to convince 20-somethings that they should spend $100 a month on health insurance.

"I'm almost certain that maybe 80 percent of my friends probably wouldn't purchase it," Jessica Lewinstein said.

Another hurdle the legislation faces is far more immediate -- Republicans are vowing to keep fighting.

"We are for health care reform, but reform that is done in a restrained dignified good way," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said.

ABC7's political analyst says Tuesday's vote on the finance committee complicates the way forward for some Congressional Democrats.

"For a lot of progressives, Olympia Snowe voting for this bill is actually not a good thing," Bruce Cain said.

Cain says the Snowe vote continues to tease the Obama administration into thinking they can get at least some Republican support, while more progressive Senate Democrats would prefer to abandon the Republicans and push more radical reform though on procedural votes that do not require 60 votes.

"And what Olympia Snowe's vote did today was keep that bipartisan path alive," Cain said.

The more radical approach would be to take the public option and anything else to do with funding health care reform and push it though on a procedural vote that requires only a simple majority (50 votes plus one). Moderate Democrats would have to close ranks, but progressives say courting Republicans is a waste of time; Snowe's vote is the only one they are going to get.

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