WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – A key U.S. Senate committee endorsed a sweeping healthcare overhaul yesterday, gaining the support of an influential Republican and delivering President Barack Obama a victory on his top domestic priority.
The Democratic-controlled Senate Finance Committee approved the measure by 14-9, with Senator Olympia Snowe becoming the first Republican in Congress to back a healthcare reform bill.
“Today we reached a critical milestone in our effort to reform our healthcare system,” said Obama, who warned there were still big challenges ahead for healthcare reform.
The bill, the last of five pending health measures to clear a committee in Congress, will be merged with the Senate health panel’s version for a floor vote.
Snowe, who had been courted by Obama and his fellow Democrats, said she backed the plan with reservations and could not guarantee her continued support as the overhaul advances.
“My vote today is my vote today. It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow,” Snowe said.
Health insurer companies stocks fell on fears the reform was gaining steam and would hurt profits if it passed. The S&P Managed Health Care index of large health insurers was down 1.9 percent.
“Support for Democratic healthcare legislation by Senator Snowe is a critical development, which definitively shifts the political balance in Democrats’ favor,” said healthcare equities analyst Avik Roy.