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Senate Finance Passes Health Reform Bill

Earlier today, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) announced that she would vote in favor of the health care reform bill authored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).  And, just about 30 minutes ago, the Finance Committee reported the bill out to the full Senate by a 14 to 9 vote, with all the Democrats and Snowe voting in favor.

As I wrote two weeks ago, however, Snowe may be getting more (or less) than she bargained for.  Once a bill is reported out of committee, it gets to be amended after debate by the entire Senate, and again when the final Senate compromise goes to conference and has to be reconciled with the House bill.  You may think you’re playing nice with your Senate Finance Committee colleagues and getting as good a deal as can be expected from that nice old Max Baucus.  But, trust me, Henry Waxman is ruthless.

Indeed, the House bill contains a government-run, or ”public,” health insurance option and a number of other key features that were steadfastly opposed by moderate Democrats and liberal Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee.  As the National Journal's Marilyn Werber Serafini wrote earlier today:

House Democrats have ruled out an excise tax on high-end insurance plans as a way to pay for health reform, although that is a primary revenue raiser in Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s plan. House Democrats are considering limiting their proposed health care surtax to individuals earning above $500,000 a year, and that leaves about a $100 billion funding shortfall for reform ...

In the end, all of Sen. Snowe's efforts to produce a compromise that the CBO now says will reduce the federal budget deficit during the ten-year budget window (which was laughable in the first place) are at risk of being for naught, since liberal Democrats remain committed to the public option and have even taken to demonizing Baucus for his willingness to compromise.