The Senate Finance Committee has begun markup of the long-stalled health care overhaul bill. The Senate could begin debating the bill as soon as next week if the Finance Committee approves its version of legislation this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said party leaders will decide how to proceed once Finance completes its work.
Senator Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, may not be willing to move as fast. Snowe, who is likely to be the only Republican to vote for the bill, at least in committee, said she would like to be able to review the final, amended legislation together with an updated cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office before voting to approve it. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., seemed to agree when he said Snowe made a good point that the committee should make sure the numbers add up and know what the numbers are.
Baucus said the bill he presented to the committee for action is a balanced, common-sense plan that takes the best ideas from both sides. It's designed to get the 60 votes that it needs to pass in a Senate where Democrats currently control 59 votes.
Meanwhile in the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., says he will try again to find a bipartisan approach to a health care overhaul by reaching out to a few Republican leaders who have said they agree with about 80% of the ideas House Democrats have outlined. But the remaining 20% includes such major areas of disagreement as a public insurance option, a mandate that large employers provide health insurance to their workers and the taxes needed to subsidize insurance for those who cannot afford to purchase it.
Hoyer acknowledges that there are some limits to any compromise with Republicans, such as dropping the public option. The public option that could be passed in the next few weeks is anathema to Republicans who say such a plan would ultimately destroy private health insurance.