Maine’s Olympia Snowe explained her vote for health care reform by saying “when history calls, history calls.” It called, she answered, and now the Senate Finance Committee’s Baucus bill, which would force Americans to buy health insurance without offering a public option, is off to get married to the more progressive Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee committee bill.

Majority Leader Harry Reid will preside over the union, with input from the White House. Here’s hoping the result fares better than most American marriages.

Any legislation that passes the Senate will have to be reconciled with bills in the House, which has three measures of its own to merge. — PZS

Los Angeles Times:

Despite the committee’s approval, key provisions of the legislation remain to be resolved, including whether the bill ultimately will include some form of a government-run health insurer, the so-called “public option.” Some senators favor a provision that would allow states to exempt themselves from providing a government option to consumers–a bid to sway moderates who otherwise might oppose a mandatory plan.

It’s unclear whether Reid will include any sort of a public option in the bill during the merger process or instead invite an amendment during the Senate floor debate. Also, there remains some significant disagreement about whether to pay for the expansion of healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans with an excise tax on high-end insurance plans — as well as the threshold at which that tax would take effect. Furthermore, the insurance industry has objected strenuously to the finance committee’s loosening of the requirement in the bill that all Americans purchase health insurance. The committee approved an amendment that weakened the penalties for failing to buy a plan.

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