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Health Reform Bill Advances, with One GOP Vote

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The Senate Finance Committee approved an $829 billion health care package, giving a significant boost to President Barack Obama's reform effort.

Democrats got a significant win when Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she would vote the bill.

The Democrats have a majority on the Senate Finance Committee, 13 to 10, so passage of the measure was all but assured. The final committee vote was 14-9. Now, the measure must be combined with a more liberal bill already passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Then, more debate on the Senate and House floors.

It's not a surprise that most Democrats supported the Senate Finance Committee bill which chair Max Baucus (D-Montana) is the sponsor of. But much of Washington has been wondering whether moderate Republicans will get behind the plan. Sen. Snowe's vote today is the first potential step in that direction.

“Is this bill all that I would want?” Ms. Snowe told The New York Times. “Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.”

However, Ms. Snowe warned that her support in a committee vote does not mean she will support the final bill.

“My vote today is my vote today,” she said. “It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.”

The practical mechanics include how much the bill will cost--$81 billion over ten years. Where that money will come from is a concern most Republicans share in the problems they have with Obama's health care reform bill.

Many Democrats also share Snowe's concern about whether enough "real-life things" are being addressed in Obama's proposals. Obama's plan would require nearly all Americans to purchase insurance, and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) says the bill lacks a public option, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) thinks the bill falls short on affordability, cost control and patient choice, according to the Associated Press.