The Senate Finance Committee voted 15-8 to defeat the first of several planned amendments that would create a public health plan as part of a broad health reform bill.
Five Democrats, including Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), joined all 10 Republicans in voting down the measure, offered by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). Rockefeller, who chairs the committee's health panel, took his most visible role yet in the health reform debate, chastising the health insurance industry for a long history of anti-patient policies, and saying that the current reform package doesn't go far enough in stemming such practices.
Rockefeller outlined more than $500 billion in government subsidies written into the bill that he said would ultimately go to the nation's insurers with little being asked in return. “They have never followed the rules,” Rockefeller charged, referring to the private-payer community. He added: “Which comes first, the insurance companies or the American people?”
Baucus explained his vote against the measure, saying “As I've said before, I see a lot to like in a public option. But my first job is to get this bill across the finish line.” Baucus said that the public option could not pass the Senate as is, adding that it would “jeopardize meaningful healthcare reform” if left in the package.