In a retake recalling the film version of “Groundhog Day,” the Senate today redebated the 2010 health-care reform law – this time, in a bid to repeal it.
The measure to repeal was proposed as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill. It failed a procedural challenge on a strict, party-line vote, 47 to 51. On. Jan. 19, House Republicans voted to repeal the health care law, 245 to 189. They were joined by three Democrats.
“These are the first steps in a long road that will culminate in 2012,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, after today’s vote. “We will continue to expose flaws and faults in this legislation … and the courts will continue to review it.”
Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada said that he allowed the Republican amendment to come to the floor – a rare event in recent years – so that the Senate could move on to work on jobs and the economy.
With Democrats controlling the Senate and President Obama wielding a veto pen at the White House, the prospects for outright repeal are remote. Instead, Republicans will push for votes to dismantle incrementally the most unpopular elements of the reform.
The GOP’s next front in the bid to undercut the health-care bill is a measure, introduced Tuesday, that allows states to opt out of major provisions of the new law. These opt-outs include: mandates for individuals to buy health insurance and employers to provide it, as well as federal mandates to expand access to state Medicaid programs, and new federal requirements defining what qualifies as a health plan.“Our bill takes the fight out of Washington and puts it back in the states,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a cosponsor with Sen. John Barrasso (R) of Wyoming, on Tuesday.
“Medicaid expansion under Obama health care will be devastating to many states, including South Carolina,” he added. “As more states opt out, it will have the effect of repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
To date, 33 governors have written to the White House requesting flexibility in meeting these new health-care mandates.
From 44 at The Washington Post:
The Senate on Wednesday defeated a Republican-led effort to repeal the entire national health-care overhaul, with lawmakers voting strictly along party lines.
Democrats’ unanimous opposition to the repeal came even though several vulnerable lawmakers up for re-election in 2012, including Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), had come under pressure to support repeal.
While the full repeal measure fell short, a separate health-care amendment offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support. The Stabenow proposal, which would repeal an unpopular tax-reporting provision of the law that opponents say overburdens small businesses, passed on an 81-to-17 vote. The House has not yet considered that proposal.
A third amendment offered by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was defeated on a 44-to-54 vote. That amendment, which was offered shortly before Wednesday’s proposals came to the floor, was similar to Stabenow’s but would have paid for the change by ending tax breaks for oil companies.
The Republican-majority House has already voted to repeal the law.
Earlier Wednesday, lawmakers took to the Senate floor, the TV airwaves and to a Judiciary Committee to heatedly debate the health-care law.
In one of the more contentious moments on the Senate floor, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) delivered a blistering speech accusing Republicans of offering “one more hollow, symbolic pander-to-the-masses amendment.”
“If you want to rewrite the bill, keep your promise, Republican Party, that if you want to repeal, then let’s go replace,” Mikulski said. “I want to hear their ideas for replacement. I challenge them right here, right now, today on this amendment.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that repealing the health care law will increase the deficit by $230 billion.
“What I’m saying is, garbage in, garbage out,” McCain said.
And amid increasing debate over the constitutionality of the health care overhaul, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced a resolution on Wednesday requesting that the Supreme Court conduct an expedited review of the law.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first-ever hearing on the constitutionality of the health-care overhaul. Five legal experts were called to testify: Democrats called Oregon Attorney General John Kroger and former solicitors general Walter Dellinger and Charles Fried as witnesses while Republicans called Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett and attorney Michael Carvin.
Fried, Kroger and Dellinger testified that they believed the individual mandate is constitutional.
“I come here not as a partisan for this act,” said Fried, who served as solicitor general under Ronald Reagan. “I think there are lots of problems with it. I’m not sure it’s good policy. I’m not sure it’s going to make the country any better. But I am quite sure that the health care mandate is constitutional.”
Carvin and Barnett argued otherwise. Carvin, who served in the Reagan administration as well as on George W. Bush’s legal team in the 2000 Florida recount, called the individual mandate an “abuse of the commerce power.” He added that the argument over activity versus inactivity “is not some semantic lawyer’s trick, something we came up with in response to the health care act. It’s a core principle that goes to the most basic constitutional freedoms and the limits on federal enumerated powers.”
Barnett, who argued a key commerce clause case before the Supreme Court in 2004, said that the “individual mandate is neither necessary nor proper.”