Obama claims bipartisan support for Baucus bill

In remarks on the Finance Committee's healthcare vote, the president focuses on lone GOP supporter

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 13, 2009 9:35PM (EDT)

During the debate over healthcare reform, some Republicans have tried to shift the definition of "bipartisan," saying a bill has to meet some wildly optimistic benchmarks -- like 75-80 votes in favor -- to earn the label. On Tuesday afternoon, President Obama seemed to be trying to turn the tactic around on his opponents.

In remarks he made from the White House about the Senate Finance Committee's vote in favor of the healthcare bill put together by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Obama worked hard to portray the legislation as having bipartisan backing.

"After many months of thoughtful deliberation, the fifth and final committee responsible for health care reform has passed a proposal that has both Democratic and Republican support," the president said. "After the consideration of hundreds of amendments, it includes ideas from both Democrats and Republicans, which is why it enjoys the support of people from both parties."

Obama went on to thank Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, "for both the political courage and the seriousness of purpose that she's demonstrated throughout this process." What he didn't say was that, in seeming contrast to his message, Snowe was the only Republican on the Finance Committee to vote for the bill. She may end up being the only Republican senator to vote for the final legislation; indeed, given recent history, she could be the only member of the GOP in all of Congress to support whatever Democratic proposal finally emerges.

The president also praised the work of the Finance Committee, and the bill itself, another signal that -- thanks to Snowe's vote -- this may be the bill that serves as the basis for the final legislation.

"Now, this bill is not perfect, and we have a lot of difficult work ahead of us. There's still significant details and disagreements to be worked out over the next several weeks as the five separate bills from the Senate and the House are merged into one proposal," Obama said.

"But I do believe the work of the Senate Finance Committee has brought us significantly closer to achieving the core objectives I laid out early in September. Most importantly, this bill goes a long way towards offering security to those who have insurance and affordable options for those who don't .... And, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has certified, it will slow the growth of health care costs in the long term, and it will not add a penny to our deficit."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Barack Obama Healthcare Reform Olympia J. Snowe R-maine