WASHINGTON — When it comes time to vote, every Democrat in the Senate — and perhaps more than one Republican — will support legislation overhauling the nation's health care system, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee predicted Thursday.
That assertion by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was a notable show of confidence coming in the midst of negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House officials to finalize legislation that can satisfy liberal Democrats without alienating moderates — and get the 60 votes needed to advance in the 100-seat Senate.
Baucus told reporters that lawmakers have a moral obligation to repair the health care system to rein in costs and extend coverage to millions of the uninsured.
"And that is why we are going to pass health care reform legislation this year, and it is why every Democrat will vote for it, and it is why there will be at least one Republican and maybe a couple more who also will vote for it," Baucus said.
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"Every Democrat will vote for national health care reform," Baucus emphasized.
Democrats control 60 Senate votes, but that includes two independents, and leaders have been uncertain of support from a number of moderates who've expressed concerns about the price tag of health care legislation and the government's role in a remade system.
Baucus and Reid met Thursday with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other officials wrestling to merge the Finance bill with a more liberal version passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Thursday night, crowds lined the streets around San Francisco's Union Square as President Obama arrived in the city.
Some in the mostly well-behaved crowd were there to support the president, while others were there to protest, especially concerning health care reform.