Voting on strict party lines, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a bill on Wednesday to revamp the nation’s health care system, as Democrats said that the legislation held the promise of more universal health coverage and more effective and affordable medical care while Republicans argued that the measure was unaffordable and would lead not to better care but to the denial of it.
The committee vote was 13 to 10.
The acting committee chairman, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, had made clear from the start that his panel would bend little when it came to the top priorities of Senate Democrats and the Obama administration, including on a provision to create a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurers that Republicans insisted was a deal-breaker.
In the end however, Republicans held their ranks. In his closing statement, Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming said that Republicans had been forced to offer more than 100 amendments to the bill because Democrats had largely shut them out of the drafting process. And he said that the $1 trillion, 10-year cost of the measure would simply drive the nation further into debt, while denying many Americans the choices for health care providers that they now enjoy.
Mr. Enzi, with a hint of sarcasm, noted that the bill’s title was the “Affordable Health Choices Act.”
“With its trillion-dollar price tag,” Mr. Enzi said, “this bill is anything but affordable.”
Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, thanked Mr. Dodd and other committee members in a quickly issued statement that commended the bill’s passage and urged for bipartisanship going forward.
“It is a cause that can and should unite us all as Americans,” he said in a statement issued from Hyannis Port, Mass., where he is battling brain cancer. “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.”
How nice for Ted Kennedy to have the luxury of extolling the virtues of a health care system under which he would have been told to go home and die with his diagnosis at age 77 . This coming after he received the best possible treatment on the planet with a health care plan that members of Congress will not have to worry about losing should this nightmare of a bill ever pass.