FINANCE COMMITTEE APPROVES HEALTH CARE REFORM…. Just moments ago, the Senate Finance Committee approved its health care reform bill on a 14 to 9 vote. Every Democrat on the committee approved the measure, and they were joined by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) who broke party ranks. The committee’s nine remaining Republicans rejected the legislation.

More soon.

Update: Any minute now, we can expect to hear a reaction from the White House on the committee vote, which will probably be characterized as a “milestone.” The adjective may sound a little hyperbolic, but it’s worth pausing to appreciate the significance of what we’re witnessing.

The Washington Post noted this morning, “The finance panel’s vote marks a watershed in the quest to overhaul the country’s health-care system. Not since Theodore Roosevelt proposed universal health care during the 1912 presidential campaign has any such bill come this far.”

Time will tell how the process unfolds from here, but health care reform has faced a variety of high hurdles, and gone up against some enormous pressures. It had five committees in two chambers to get through, and as of this afternoon, it’s cleared all five.

Americans have been waiting for health care reform for far too long. And as of today, reform is headed to the House and Senate floors for the first time ever.

The sausage-making process, which has at times been ugly and messy this year, isn’t going to get any easier in the coming weeks, and lawmakers have some heavy lifting to do, not to mention huge questions to answer.

But as of this minute, health care reform is so close we can taste it.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.