Senate Panel Approves a Health Care Bill, But Will it Pass?

Separate committee will decide how to finance $600 billion measure.

ByABC News
July 15, 2009, 7:04 PM

July 15, 2009 — -- Though a Senate committee approved one health care reform bill this morning and the House Democrats unveiled their own plan for health care reform yesterday, it remains to be seen which plan -- if any -- will get passed into law by Congress this year.

President Barack Obama called on lawmakers to "buck up" and move quickly with health care reform.

"We can do what we've done for so long and defer tough decisions for another day -- or we can step up and meet our responsibilities. In other words, we can lead," Obama said in the Rose Garden this afternoon.

In an interview with ABC News' Dr. Tim Johnson, the president reiterated that message.

"What we can't do is pretend that somehow with all the waste that's in the system -- and everybody acknowledges that -- that we can just keep on doing business as usual and somehow bend the curve on health care costs in a way that not only provides affordable coverage to families but also makes sure that we don't have the federal budget blowing up," Obama told Johnson today at the White House.

But Obama stopped short of indicating which Democratic plan he prefers.

"Both proposals will take what's best about our system today and make it the basis of our system tomorrow," he said in remarks earlier today.

In the ABC News interview he added that the final bill he signs has to have "strong incentives to help primary care physicians."

Watch "World News With Charles Gibson" tonight at 6:30 ET for the full report

The bill approved by the Senate health panel has a public health insurance option and mandates for employers and individuals. Approved along strict party lines, it does not deal with the controversial question of financing health care reform, the details of which are being negotiated more slowly by the Senate Finance Committee.

Senators on the health panel had considered the measure for three weeks. In that time, they considered 287 of 500 amendments filed. A total of 161 of those came from Republicans and were accepted. Thirty-six amendments were accepted from Democrats.

That effort led Sen. Chris Dodd, R-Conn., who is leading the panel in the absence of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to say today, "while this is not a bipartisan bill, it is a bipartisan effort."

But Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the ranking Republican on the committee, said the committee should scrap the bill and start over to agree to a bipartisan measure that could gain support from Republicans. Anything less, he said, will ultimately be rejected by the country. Republicans have also decried an expansion of Medicaid envisioned by Democrats. They say the real financial brunt of such an expansion would fall on the states, which share the cost.

"Based on everything the president has promised and said he wanted in a health care reform bill, I don't see how he could ever sign this bill," Enzi said. "The HELP Democrats' plan makes a mockery of the president's promises."

Joined today by nurses as well as health panel Democrats George Miller, D-Calif., and Dodd, Obama said, "This progress should make us hopeful but it shouldn't make us complacent. It should instead provide the urgency for both the House and the Senate to finish their critical work on health reform before the August recess."

If lawmakers succeed in passing the bills in the House and Senate this summer, the tougher challenge will come in the fall, when they would try to resolve differences between the two versions of the bill.

A flurry of activity both on and off Capitol Hill signals an escalation of the long-standing debate. Health care groups are also fanning out across the Hill today to make their case. And a new television advertisement launched today by the Democratic National Committee urges moderate Democrats to support Obama's plan.