Obama Praises Senate Panel, Olympia Snowe

President Obama on Tuesday called the passage of health care legislation in the Senate Finance Committee a "critical milestone" that brings Washington closer to achieving comprehensive health care reform than ever before. He praised the entire Senate committee for its work and specifically thanked Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe -- the one GOP member who supported the measure.

The committee passed a measure "that has both Democratic and Republican support," the president said, thanks to the "tireless efforts of Chairman Max Baucus and the other members of the Senate Finance Committee."

"I want to particularly thank Sen. Olympia Snowe for both the political courage and seriousness of purpose that she has demonstrated throughout this process," Mr. Obama said, speaking in front of the White House.

Despite "significant details and disagreements" to work out, he said the bill "has brought us significantly closer to achieving the core objectives I laid out" for reform. Those include, he said, bringing security to those who have health insurance and affordability to those who do not, slowing the growth of health care costs, setting up a health care "exchange," implementing consumer protections, and keeping the reform package deficit-neutral.

"We are now closer than ever before to passing health care reform, but we're not there yet," Mr. Obama said. "Now's the time to dig in and work even harder to get things done." Special Report: Health Care