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The 14-9 vote in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday in favor of the healthcare bill sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is being treated by the media as a major milestone toward the enactment of the President's healthcare reform plans. The story led all three network newscasts last night and made front-page headlines across the country. Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who crossed party lines to support the Baucus plan, is receiving much praise for her vote. The Christian Science Monitor (10/14, Grier), for instance, commends her as "meticulous and independent," and a "lawmaker whose Senate votes have seldom been driven by party ideology."


        Noting that the bill passed with one GOP vote, the AP (10/14, Espo) calls the vote "a double-barreled triumph that propelled...Obama's signature issue toward votes this fall in both houses of Congress." Sen. Snowe is quoted saying, "When history calls, history calls." USA Today (10/13, Fritze) reported that Snowe's "decision...could have wide implications as Democrats seek the 60 votes needed to clear the next hurdle: a vote by the full Senate."


        The CBS Evening News (10/13, lead story, 3:20, Couric) reported, "Healthcare reform cleared a major hurdle." CBS (Cordes) added, "With this vote, healthcare reform legislation has now passed through all five relevant congressional committees, a feat that eluded President Clinton when he tried to revamp healthcare." NBC Nightly News (10/13, lead story, 2:55, O'Donnell) said that "the White House and top Democrats will write the final version of the Senate bill, combining" the Baucus plan "with an earlier one that did have that public option. So the President will have to decide if a public option is a must have."


        The Los Angeles Times (10/14, Levey, Oliphant) reports, "Snowe's support could make it easier for senior Senate Democrats to convince conservative members of their party to back the chamber's final legislation and provide the 60 votes necessary to head off an anticipated GOP filibuster." But, it "also may make it hard for" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "to move the finance committee's bill far enough to the left to satisfy liberals, who long have complained that the Baucus bill does not do enough to ensure universal coverage."


        Bloomberg News (10/14, Litvan, Gaouette) notes that Sen. Reid "will meld the finance panel bill with one approved by the Senate health committee in July, forcing him to resolve differences over a host of issues that divide both political parties and risk rupturing Democratic unity." According to Reid spokesman Jim Manley, "the healthcare bill should be on the floor the week of Oct. 26."


        Politico (10/14, Brown) reports that Snowe said Tuesday that "she supports the bill with reservations, and shares the Republican concerns about how Democrats will shape the bill after it leaves the committee." Also, "in a subtle warning," she added, "My vote today is my vote today, it doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow."


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