Senate Democrats today shot down an attempt by Republicans to repeal the controversial new health care law.
Senators voted strictly along party lines --51 to 47 -- on the repeal: Every Republican supported repeal, while every Democrat who voted opposed repeal. The vote was called at 6:23 p.m., with Sen. Michael Bennet in the chair. Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Mark Warner, D-Va, missed the vote.
The repeal needed 60 votes to advance past a so-called budget point of order in the Senate, something that was never likely to happen, given the Democrats' majority in the upper chamber of Congress.
Ultimately, just getting the repeal to a Senate vote was a victory for Republicans. The GOP, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, insisted on a Senate vote to repeal the law after the Republican-controlled House voted to do so last month.
When Democrats brought the $35 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill to the Senate floor -- touting it as "the first jobs bill" of the new Congress, one that would save or create an estimated 280,000 jobs -- Republicans attempted to attach the repeal of the health care law as an amendment. Democrats protested on the grounds of a budget point of order, because it would add to the deficit, which led to today's vote.
Earlier today, senators engaged in heated debate on the chamber floor about the law.
"The Republican leadership has offered an amendment to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. Now, Mr. President, they're only keeping half of their promise," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said. "They went out there and campaigned, and the Tea Party had a teapot boiling over and they said, 'We're going to offer a bill to repeal and replace.' Well, guess what they're doing here today? One more hollow, symbolic pander to the masses amendment. Their amendment offers a repeal, but it does not offer a plan or strategy to replace, because ... they have no ideas. They just want to pander to the crowd.
"If you want to rewrite your bill, keep your promise, Republican Party, that if you want to repeal, let's go to replace. I want to hear their ideas for replacing. I challenge them right here right now today on this amendment -- come in with other amendments on your idea to replace it. I want to know what it is that they want to do."
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., countered, "If this law is so good, why do so many people who supported it in the first place now say I don't want it to apply to me?
"As people know more and more about what's in this law, it is less popular on a daily basis."
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., proposed that in an effort to avoid a long, drawn-out fight, the Senate should pass a resolution asking the Supreme Court for a swift decision on the constitutionality of the law.
"I would urge the Senate to consider adopting the resolution asking the Supreme Court to step in and to decide quickly whether the current law meets the constitutional test," he said.
While the repeal failed to advance, senators did move forward with an effort to change the much-maligned 1099 provision of the health care law, which critics say would impose an onerous reporting burden on businesses. An amendment from Sen.Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to scrap the 1099 mandate from the law advanced by a vote of 81-17.