After a marathon session that ran well past midnight, the Senate Finance Committee on Friday passed a major milestone in its work on legislation to remake the health care system and provide coverage to millions of the uninsured.
At 2:15 a.m., the committee completed work on the last of dozens of amendments to the bill, written by the panel’s chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana.
The committee plans to take a final vote on the legislation next week, after getting a cost estimate from the Congregational Budget Office. Democratic leaders hope the full Senate will begin debate on the legislation — President Obama’s top domestic priority — later this month.
In its grueling final hours, the committee voted Thursday to soften the impact of financial penalties that would be imposed on people who did not obtain insurance under the legislation. It also voted to modify a proposed tax on high-cost health insurance policies, so that fewer people would be affected, The New York Times reports.
“We have a product that accomplishes our objectives,” Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said after what he called the longest “markup” of a bill in 15 years. “Four, five, six years from now we’re going to see real benefits.”
The fight to overhaul the health system is far from over. The bill that emerges from Baucus’s panel must be merged with one that passed the Senate health committee and eventually reconciled with a House measure. Those bills clash with the Baucus legislation on some of the most important issues, including how to expand insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans and how to pay for it, Bloomberg reports.
CNN Max Baucus as saying, "We are offering a fiscally responsible bill that takes good ideas from both sides of the aisle. Together, we will deliver a bill that can pass the Senate."
Republican Sen. Grassley, however, has said he fears the legislation will eventually lead to the government taking over the health care system, CNN reports.