- Associated Press - Sunday, January 23, 2011

Senate Republicans want to box majority Democrats into allowing a health care repeal vote even if GOP lawmakers expect to be on the losing side.

“We need to have a vote on it, because we promised the people we would,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “We have to have a vote on repeal so that everybody is on record whether they want to repeal.”

Republicans took control of the House after November’s elections and last week voted, as promised, to repeal the health care law. Only three Democrats joined all Republicans in the 245-189 vote to scrap the law.

In the Senate, Democrats retained majority control, even though the 53-47 split is narrower than the advantage they held before November. Two of those votes come from independents who caucus with the Democrats and support the health care law overall. Moreover, Senate measures usually require a 60-vote majority to advance.

While Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who controls the Senate agenda, has said such a bill won’t come to a vote, Republican leader Mitch McConnell repeated his promise that a repeal vote will indeed take place.

“I’m not going to discuss how we’ll do it from a parliamentary point of view here,” Mr. McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“If that does not pass, and I don’t think anyone is optimistic that it will, we intend to go after this health care bill in every way that we can. It’s the single worst piece of legislation that’s been passed in my time in the Senate,” Mr. McConnell said.

One route to a repeal vote could be through an amendment brought to the Senate floor, according to Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat.

“If some Republican senator wants to offer it as an amendment at some point, it’s possible they will. It’s possible we’ll face that vote,” Mr. Durbin said on Fox. “But having spoken to my members in the Democratic caucus, with Sen. Reid, we feel there’s still strong support for health care reform.”

With its mandate that almost all people in the U.S. carry insurance, the health care law divides people about evenly. Some provisions, such as coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and allowing older children to remain on parents’ insurance, are popular.

Only about one in four people say they want to do away with the health care law completely, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll.

For those reasons, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, suggested that Republicans should be careful what they wish for.

“If the Republicans offer an amendment on the floor, then we will require them to vote on the individual protections in the bill that are very popular and that even some of the new Republican House members have said they support,” Mr. Schumer said on CBS. “So, in the end, their repeal bill is going to be so full of holes, it looks like Swiss cheese.”