"A sweeping health overhaul bill has survived a major challenge from the left, but onslaughts loom from the right on thorny issues including abortion and insurance coverage for illegal immigrants.
Liberal Democrats failed in two efforts Tuesday to include a government-run insurance option in the legislation before the Senate Finance Committee. Finance is the last of five congressional panels completing work on President Barack Obama's No. 1 domestic priority, a top-to-bottom reshaping of the U.S. health care system to hold down costs and extend coverage to the uninsured.
The outcome was expected in the moderate committee, which is the only of the five not to have embraced an new federally-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. Advocates say the competition would help consumers while opponents say it would destroy private companies and result in a government takeover of health care.
The committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he saw features to like in the so-called public plan but that it wouldn't get the 60 votes necessary to advance in the Senate. "My first job is to get this bill across the finish line," said Baucus, who'd proposed nonprofit, member-owned cooperatives instead.
Supporters of the so-called "public option" vowed to keep up their fight as the bill moves toward the Senate floor, and then to negotiations with the House. Democratic leaders in both chambers are pushing for floor votes in the fall."
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