Chris Korzen, Executive Director of Catholics United, a non-profit organization that has consistently supported President Obama's policies, released a statement yesterday thanking Senator Olympia Snowe for being the only Republican to vote in favor of the Finance Committee health care bill. However, the U.S. Catholic bishops remain far from comfortable with the legislation.
Early on Tuesday afternoon, the self-proclaimed pro-choice Snowe (R-Maine) announced she would vote "yes" to send Senator Baucus' health care reform bill to the floor for a vote by the full Senate. The bill was approved in committee by a 14-9 margin.
Nevertheless, the Maine senator maintained that she may not support the bill in its final version and that her vote was unnecessary for the Finance Committee’s measure to progress. Unlike other bills, the Baucus bill has no government-sponsored insurance plan and no requirement that employers must offer health coverage.
The Finance Committee bill has come under fire, like the other reform proposals, for its lack of clarity on issues that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) considers deal breakers. The bishops' conference insists that no one should be forced to pay for or participate in an abortion, that health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable and that the needs of legal immigrants are met.
However, Catholics United said in its statement, "We wish to offer our sincere gratitude to Senator Snowe for her courageous vote. By her actions today, Senator Snowe has shown once again that she believes making sure all Americans have access to quality affordable health care is more important than engaging in the politics of obstruction and division."
"People of faith in general, and Catholics in particular, believe that universal health care ranks among the [sic] our nation's most urgent moral priorities. Throughout this debate, Senator Snowe has proven a crucial ally in the fight for health care reform – especially in the area of health insurance affordability," Korzen wrote.
Because of her position on the matter, Catholics United said, "We applaud Senator Snowe for her ongoing efforts, and are proud to stand behind her as we move toward passage of this historic legislation."
Last week, and again yesterday afternoon, the USCCB reaffirmed its commitment to "working with Congress and the Administration toward genuine health care reform," but stated that if final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill."
According to several USCCB spokespersons who analyzed the bill yesterday, the Finance Committee bill praised by Korzen still fails to allay their concerns. In fact, the bishops have noted, "amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes."