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Olympia Snowe gives healthcare reform its first Republican vote

The Senate Finance Committee passed its healthcare bill Tuesday along party lines – with the exception of Olympia Snowe's vote. But her comments suggest that the bill will be difficult to pass on the Senate floor.

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, foreground, makes a point on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday, during the committee's hearing on healthcare reform.

Harry Hamburg / AP

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Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine broke party ranks Tuesday to vote in favor of the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare reform bill – giving Democrats their first GOP vote for reform in either the House or Senate.

But her reservations – along with those of many Democrats on the panel – signal how tough it may be to hold that reform coalition through final floor votes.

“Is this the bill that I would want? Far from it. But when history calls, history calls, and I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress taking every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time,” she said.

“My vote today is my vote today. It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow,” she added.

With the exception of Senator Snowe, the committee members voted along party lines, passing the bill 14 to 9.

What next?

The vote sets up complex, closed-door negotiations over a merged bill to take to the floor. In principle, the Finance bill must now be melded with the draft bill produced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel, which includes a public option. (The Finance Committee’s version of the bill does not.)

Democrats, too, say that they voted with the draft bill to move the process along, but that the final bill must include a public option to ensure that Americans have affordable options.

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