- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Senate Republicans swatted away President Obama’s veto threat Wednesday and forged ahead with a fast-track bill to unwind his signature health care law and defund Planned Parenthood for one year, though Democrats said the GOP would pay a heavy price for it at the polls next year.

A final vote was expected late Thursday after the Senate first dealt with a series of amendments, including one from Republicans that would restore health plans that consumers lost when the Affordable Care Act took full effect in 2014 — a direct rebuke to Mr. Obama’s flawed promise that people who liked their plans could keep them under his law.

The bill also strips federal funding from Planned Parenthood, in the wake of videos showing organization officials negotiating the sale of fetal body parts.

“It’s not too late for our Democratic colleagues to work with us to build a bridge to better care,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said. “This is their chance, and President Obama’s chance, to begin to make amends for the pain and the hurt they’ve caused — for all the broken promises, for all the higher costs, for all the failures.”

Democrats, though, vowed to make Republicans pay a political price, including forcing a vote on restoring money for Planned Parenthood.

“If Republicans are going to try and cut off women’s access to health care, I’m going to make sure they hear about it,” said Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat whose amendment would set up a fund to add security at health clinics in the wake of a post-Thanksgiving shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

SEE ALSO: VA working towards consolidating non-VA care programs

Republicans are using a budget process known as “reconciliation” that allows them to pass a revenue-related bill by a majority vote, without having to overcome Democratic-led filibusters that have doomed every previous Obamacare repeal.

The bill will instead die at the hands of Mr. Obama, who vowed to reject the bill in a statement issued by the White House.

“Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle‑class families, and create new jobs,” the administration said.

Though Mr. Obama will ax the bill, the GOP sees it as a test run for 2017, when they could scrap the law for good with a Republican president and a slim Senate majority.

In the meantime, GOP lawmakers said Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies should be held accountable for the health care law. They ticked off a series of ills that have been ascribed to the reforms, from hiring freezes at midsized firms to customers losing health plans they liked and resorting to ones with high out-of-pocket costs.

“Great Scott, I’m just amazed at how high the deductibles have gotten,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, said.

Republican leaders have had to tailor their bill to get majority support. The beefed-up version also would phase out the law’s exchange subsidies for private plans and the expansion of Medicaid in select states.

That was designed to win the backing of Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah.

Democrats said some Senate Republicans will face retribution from voters.

Eleven GOP senators up for reelection in 2016 represent states that have expanded Medicaid, and that coverage would disappear under the Republican proposal.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican who must defend his seat, said Wednesday it “troubles” him to oppose the 2013 decision by then-Gov. Jan Brewer, a fellow Republican, to expand its program, though he plans to vote for the bill.

“It does provide me with discomfort,” Mr. McCain said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I am very reluctant to take positions that counter the decisions made by the governor. As a federalist, I believe that it puts me in a difficult position.”

GOP leaders have written the repeal as a two-year phaseout, saying it will give them a chance to have a replacement ready in 2017, when the next president takes office.

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