Senate panel clears health insurance overhaul
(AP) - The Senate health committee cast a milestonevote Wednesday to approve legislation expanding insurance coverageto nearly all Americans, becoming the first congressional panel toact on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
The 13-10 party line vote advanced a $600 billion measure thatwould require individuals to get health insurance and employers tocontribute to the cost. Democratic leaders are driving for floorvotes in the House and Senate before Congress goes on its Augustbreak.
The health committee bill calls for the government to providefinancial assistance with premiums for individuals and familiesmaking up to four times the federal poverty level, or about $88,000for a family of four, a broad cross-section of the middle class.The legislation is but one piece of a broader Senate bill stillunder development.
"This time we've produced legislation that by and large I thinkthe American people want," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., whostood in for committee chairman Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ofMassachusetts. Kennedy, who's made health care legislation alifelong priority, is being treated for brain cancer.
But ranking Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming argued that thebill would break Obama's promises by adding to the deficit.
Obama quickly issued a statement saying the Health, Education,Labor and Pensions Committee vote "should give us hope, but itshould not give us pause. It should instead provide the urgency forthe House and Senate to finish their critical work on health reformbefore the August recess."