A massive health reform package that cleared the Senate Finance Committee on a historic 14-9 vote will again get reshaped as it winds through a process that can be as confusing as it is laborious.
Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who spearheaded the bill that gained bipartisan support by the slimmest of margins, is expected to meet with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) to begin to meld the Finance bill with one passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee back in July.
Major differences remain between the Finance package and the bill passed by the HELP panel. For starters, the latter committee included a strong, government-backed public health plan. The Finance committee did not. Baucus acknowledged that it's a tough task. “The country wants a balanced bill, and I'm going to be working hard to achieve that,” he told reporters after the vote.
Despite those differences, Dodd, who steered the HELP bill through the committee process, said he expects the meetings to go smoothly. “This is going to be a merger, not an acquisition,” he said.