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Finance Approves Health Bill

After months of negotiations, the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 Tuesday afternoon in favor of its $829 billion health care reform bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) was the only Republican to side with the Democrats in supporting the bill, now to be merged with a competing bill passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. That married product will be debated by the full Senate later this month. “The costs of inaction are clear. Americans simply cannot afford the status quo,— Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said earlier Tuesday.“I wish I felt better about the substance of the bill,— ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) countered.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and senior White House officials are set to run the next phase of the health care reform negotiations, with Baucus set to advocate on behalf of the Finance bill and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) tasked with pushing for the HELP legislation. Republicans, including Snowe, expressed concerns Tuesday that anything they might like about the Finance bill would be purged in the two bills’ merger. Similarly, Democrats said they hoped to see fixes to what they view as the Finance measure’s problems.Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), whose votes were not certain heading into Tuesday’s session, both voted for the measure.“I’m going to vote for this bill coming out of Finance,— Rockefeller said before the vote. “Because I think in spite of a lot of problems I have with it, the dialogue is now for real.—

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