First panel acting on President Obama's overhaul of the health care system.
The Senate health committee has passed legislation to revamp health care, becoming the first congressional committee to act on President Barack Obama's goal of overhauling the system this year.
The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 13-10 along party lines to pass a $600-billion measure that would expand coverage to nearly all Americans by requiring individuals get insurance and employers to contribute to the cost.
The bill would provide federal aid to families and individuals making less than four times the poverty level, or about $88,000 for a family of four.
On the other side of the aisle House Democratic leaders are offering a $1.5 trillion plan that for the first time would make health care a right and a responsibility for all Americans. Left to pick up most of the tab were medical providers, employers and the wealthy.
"We cannot allow this issue to be delayed. We cannot put it off again," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said Tuesday. "We, quite frankly, cannot go home for a recess unless the House and the Senate both pass bills to reform and restructure our health care system."
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wanted floor debate to begin a week from Monday. With the Senate Finance Committee still struggling to reach consensus, that timetable could slip. Even so, it underscored a renewed sense of urgency.
Obama himself was driving the action, going off-script to push the issue during a speech in Michigan and scheduling a Rose Garden news conference for Wednesday to make more comments on the topic.
"There's going to be a major debate over the next three weeks," Obama said in Warren, Mich., deviating from his prepared text on new spending for community colleges. "And don't be fooled by folks trying to scare you saying we can't change the health care system. We have no choice but to change the health care system because right now it's broken for too many Americans."
Obama's political organization is launching a series of 30-second television ads on health care, which will begin airing Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and on cable TV nationally. A version will run on local stations in eight states — Arkansas, Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, North Dakota, Nebraska and Ohio — to prod senators to back the health care effort. They will run for two weeks. read more here....
President Obama had to put his skin in the game.
Again, I know I am harping, but a health care bill with a strong public option, must pass the senate. Health care is directly related to many Americans and the economy, period. One good thing is that is does not deny anyone with pre-existing conditions and this bill should worry the heck out of the insurance and health care industries who are lobbying congress at a 1.4M clip a day.
UPDATE: Senator Kennedy's Statement
"This room is a special place. In this room, my two brothers declared their candidacy for the presidency. Today, the nation takes another major step toward reaching the goals to which they dedicated their careers, and for which they gave their lives. They strived, as I have tried to do, for a fairer and more just America - a nation where every American could share fully in the promise of quality health care.
As you vote today, know that I am with you in heart and mind and soul, and I wish very much that I could be with you in person.
I could not be prouder of our committee. We have done the hard work that the American people sent us here to do. We have considered hundreds of proposals. Where we have been able to reach principled compromise, we have done so. Where we have not been able to resolve our differences, we have treated those with whom we disagree with respect and patience. I thank all the members of our committee - Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike - for their dedication and devotion to the great cause of quality, affordable health care for all our people.
Extraordinary thanks go to Chris Dodd. No man has ever had a truer or more generous friend than he has been to me, and no cause has ever had a more able leader than he has been in the great effort to enact health reform.
It is a cause that knows no boundary of party, region, or philosophy. It is a cause that can and should unite us all as Americans. We know, however, that our work is not over - far from it. As we move from our committee room to the Senate floor, we must continue the search for solutions that unite us, so that the great promise of quality affordable health care for all can be fulfilled.
As I said, this room is a special place - and I believe our committee's actions have added a glorious chapter to the honor roll of history that has been made here.
Americans are an extraordinary people. We have created a nation of liberty and justice. We have defeated forces of oppression, and we have spread prosperity and progress across the globe. When the American people are on the march, there is no barrier that can resist them, no obstacle that can block their path.
The American people are on the march once more, and they will not stop until quality, affordable health care is the birthright of every American. And we are with them every step of the way."
Remarks from Senator Jeff Merkley, D-OR