"We, as senators, have a choice," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on the Senate floor. "We can move forward or we can look backward. We can make progress or stage a futile fight with the future. It's clear this week that while the American people and Senate Democrats are looking ahead, Senate Republicans are looking for a way to distract the American people."
Given that the Democrats still hold a 53 to 47 majority in the Senate, today's GOP push was an effort destined to fail. But the Republicans wanted to go on the record as trying to scrap a law that they have denounced as one of the worst in history.
"The case against this bill is more compelling every day," McConnell said. "Everything we learn tells us it was a bad idea. That it should be repealed and replaced. The courts say so. The American people say so. Job creators say so. It's time for those who passed this bill to show that they've noticed. Let's take this opportunity."
The repeal push was just one of three ways that Republicans are trying to kill the health care law. More than half the states in the country have mounted lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law. Earlier this week, a federal judge in Florida ruled that the law was unconstitutional, a stance that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called "a dagger into the heart of Obamacare."
Two other judges, however, have ruled that the law is constitutional. The fight could end up in the Supreme Court.
Graham and Barrasso have introduced legislation in Congress to allow states to opt out of the law.
"This is basically giving states the right to come up with a plan that works best for them."
Graham and Barrasso's proposal would allow states to opt-out of the law's major provisions, such as the individual and employer mandates and the expansion of Medicaid.
But that opt-out push will have to wait.
Today's repeal vote came after weeks of insistence by McConnell that the Senate would go on record on the health care law.
Democrats said Tuesday they hoped today's vote would mean that Republicans would soon move on from their efforts to repeal the law, a wish that seems unlikely to come true.
"We want to have a debate on aviation transportation," said Reid, referring to the $35 billion FAA reauthorization bill brought by Democrats, "but the Republicans obviously want to do something on health care and so we want to get this out of their system very quickly."