Legislation that promises sweeping reform of the nation’s health care system crossed its first hurdle in the U-S Senate on Wednesday, what Iowa Senator Tom Harkin calls a "historic day." Harkin, a Democrat, says the far-reaching measure was the product of intense bipartisan labor before it passed in committee 13-to-10, without a single "yes" vote coming from a Republican.
"I don’t think it signals much of a problem," Harkin says. "It was a bipartisan approach. Let’s keep in mind, the American people voted for Democrats to take the lead last fall and that’s what we’re doing. That doesn’t mean we dictate everything. We had this bill in open process. We took 13 days, 54 hours — no Republican was denied the opportunity to offer an amendment."
Harkin says members of the G-O-P were involved throughout the effort to craft the massive bill. "They offered 210 amendments and 161 were accepted," Harkin says. "To me, that is bipartisan. What would not be bipartisan is if we came out with a bill and everybody had to rubber stamp it without anybody being able to amend it or modify it. At some point, Republicans are going to have to decide — do they want to keep the present system we have or do they want to vote for a change?"
Harkin says the American people have already made it clear, they want a change. He says this is a "landmark" bill, which he says comes after nearly seven decades of failed efforts to bring reform to the country’s health care system. Harkin says the measure that passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee takes a four-way approach.
"It will reduce health costs," Harkin says. "It will create a strong public option while protecting individuals’ choice of doctors and plans. It will assure quality, affordable coverage for nearly every American. And by putting a sharp new emphasis on wellness and prevention, it will begin to transform our current sick care system into a genuine health care system."
A different health care reform bill is also now before the U-S House. One estimate says the Senate version could end up costing one-trillion dollars.