Senate Republicans have forced a vote on repealing the health care reform law, an action Democrats say is a waste of time that will end in defeat.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, on Tuesday offered the repeal measure as an amendment to an aviation safety bill under debate. He said he has the support of all 47 Senate Republicans.
“It’s no secret the American people don’t like the health bill that passed last year,” Mr. McConnell said. “It’s not every day that you can get a second chance on a big decision after you know all the facts.”
The Senate debated the measure late Tuesday and was expected to vote Wednesday.
The repeal effort was made a day after a judge in Florida ruled that Congress breached the Constitution when it enacted the measure last year. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson was the second jurist to say that Congress exceeded its powers by requiring Americans to buy insurance, known as the “individual mandate.”
But the Florida judge went further, saying that if the individual mandate is unconstitutional, so is the entire law.
Mr. McConnell said that while the court decision was significant, “we would have moved ahead in any event.”
The Republican-controlled House voted last month to repeal the measure. Every Republican in the chamber voted in favor of repeal.
Senate Democratic leaders condemned the repeal effort, saying it was undermining work on passing a vital Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) bill that would update the nation’s antiquated aircraft navigation system.
“It’s not going to go anyplace,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said of the repeal proposal.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, also predicted the amendment would lose.
“Eighty percent of the American people oppose repeal of health care reform,” he said, “and yet the Republicans in the House, and now the Republicans in the Senate, think that this is the single most important, highest priority thing for them to do.
“What they’re doing is bowing to the tea party.”
It’s unlikely the repeal effort will be successful, but Senate Republicans also have introduced legislation that would allow states to opt out of the law’s major provisions, including the individual mandate and the “employer mandate” that penalizes businesses that don’t provide workers with government-approved health insurance.
“Instead of requiring states to follow Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all health care policy, our bill lets states decide what works best for them,” said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and a medical doctor who was a sponsor of the effort.
Meanwhile, there was bipartisan support in the Senate for an effort to eliminate an unpopular part of the health care law; the so called “1099 provision” that calls for businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service purchases of $600 or more.
After the axing of the entire health care law, Republicans have made repealing the 1099 provision among their highest priorities. Democrats agreed that the provision should be fixed and said they would vote for its repeal.
But Democrats complained that Republicans were playing politics with the FAA bill, which has been in the works for years, that would convert the nation’s decades-old radar air traffic control system to a modern satellite-based system already is use throughout Europe and elsewhere.
Revamping the nation’s airport navigation system would significantly improve safety and reduce airline delays, supporters of the measure say. The measure also calls for an $8 billion investment for airport planning, improvements and construction.
Senate Democrats have touted the FAA legislation as the year’s first “jobs bill,” saying it would create or save almost 300,000 airline-related, construction and other jobs.
“On the Senate floor this week, we’re going to pick up where the president left off in his State of the Union address,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “The FAA bill is exactly the type of investment in our future that will propel our country forward, spur growth, create jobs.”
A similar FAA bill passed the Senate last year by a vote of 93-0. That legislation stalled after the House included union measures in its bill and the two chambers couldn’t reconcile the versions.