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Senate panel sets vote on health bill

October 09, 2009|Washington Post

WASHINGTON — A key Senate committee will vote Tuesday on its $829-billion overhaul of the nation's healthcare system, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday -- the final hurdle before the full House and Senate can begin their debate on the future of healthcare.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid (D-Nev.) criticized Republicans for opposing the finance committee's measure, accusing GOP leaders of aiming to be "partisan protesters" rather than "productive partners."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fired back that Democrats had yet to craft a package that could win 60 votes, and that until they did, any claims that the package would dramatically shrink the ranks of the uninsured while lowering the budget deficit were "irrelevant."

Reid's announcement came less than a day after congressional budget analysts projected that the measure would achieve both of those aims.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office gave an important boost to the finance committee's work with its report Wednesday, which indicated that its version is the only one of five bills by various congressional panels that achieves every important goal Obama has set for his top domestic initiative.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said that she would send three versions of her chamber's healthcare bill to the budget office for analysis, bringing the House one step closer to a vote. Pelosi said that all three versions would include a government-sponsored insurance plan -- unlike the Senate finance measure.

"I think it's very clear from our conversations with the members that the votes are there for a public option," Pelosi said.

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