Sen. Olympia Snowe, the sole Republican to vote in favor of a health care reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee today told ABC News she chose to break with party lines because, "I do happen to believe that we have to move the process forward, on this very difficult and challenging issue."
The committee passed the measure, introduced by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., by a 14-9 vote.
In an exclusive interview on ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson," Snowe said she still has concerns about the measure, and reserved the right to change her vote as the legislation moves forward, especially if the cost of the bill goes up.
"We still have to work on that issue making sure Americans have affordable health plans. They do under this legislation, but we need to do more and to be certain of that. "
Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine, also warned that adding a publicly financed insurance option, demanded by many Democrats but not included in the Baucus bill, would be a deal breaker for her.
"That is not an area I have agreed to. I don't want government at the outset of the process. It really could shut off the private sector," Snowe told Gibson. "I think the private sector can do a lot because of the market reforms that we included in this legislation that will compel them to live up to a standard."
President Obama praised the Finance Committee after the vote and said he wanted to "particularly thank" Snowe, citing her "for both the political courage and the seriousness of purpose she's demonstrated throughout this process."
Snowe's vote allowed Obama to claim the bill has bipartisan support.
"After the consideration of hundreds of amendments, it includes ideas from both Democrats and Republicans," Obama said.
The bill would provide insurance for millions of Americans who have been unable to obtain or afford coverage.
"Today we reached a critical milestone in our efforts to reform our health care system," the president said speaking from the White House Rose Garden.
Today's vote in the Finance Committee kicks off what's expected to be a long and arduous path through Congress for final legislation.
"When history calls, history calls," Snowe said at the committee hearing "My vote today is my vote today. It doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow."
While hailing today's vote, the President urged members of Congress to remain sober.
"We are closer now than ever before to passing health reform, but we're not there yet," he added. "Now's not the time to pat ourselves in the back, now's not the time to offer ourselves congratulations, now's the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done."
"In this final phase, I hope that we can continue to engage each other with the spirit of civility and seriousness that has brought us this far, and that the subject deserves."
Republicans panned the bill, and the Democrats, for not including their input.
"We are for health care reform, but it ought to be done in a restrained, good way," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the ranking Republican on the Senate health committee, said Democrats are in the process of "buying enough votes" to reach the 60-vote threshold on the Senate floor.