Senate Republicans push health law repeal

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 1, 2011 6:16pm EST

Certified nursing assistant Natalie Gutierrez (L) works with Ashley Ludwick and her baby Noah Gonzales at Sagebrush Clinic in Bakersfield, California October 20, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Certified nursing assistant Natalie Gutierrez (L) works with Ashley Ludwick and her baby Noah Gonzales at Sagebrush Clinic in Bakersfield, California October 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Phil McCarten

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans moved on Tuesday to force a U.S. Senate vote to repeal President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul -- a day after a federal judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional.

Obama's fellow Democrats in the Senate were expected to block the bid, which was made as a Republican amendment to an unrelated federal aviation bill.

The vote was expected as early as Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said all 47 Republicans in the 100-member Senate would back the repeal, but that would fall far short of the 60 votes to succeed in the Democratic-led chamber.

"It is not going to go anywhere," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of the Republican amendment, noting that a repeal would add to an already bloated federal deficit.

"We believe the healthcare law is good for the American people," Reid said.

Last month, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted largely along party lines to repeal the year-old healthcare law, and Monday's federal court ruling added fresh impetus to the effort.

"Yesterday's ruling out of Florida, only adds to the urgency of repeal," McConnell said in the Senate.

The law, enacted last year by a Democratic-led Congress, aims to expand health coverage for more than 30 million uninsured Americans while cracking down on unpopular insurance industry practices that have denied people coverage or made it too expensive for them to afford.

RAMIFICATIONS

The ramifications for the health sector have been widespread, affecting Aetna Inc, WellPoint Inc and other health insurers as well as drugmakers, device companies, hospitals and others.

Polls show many Americans are skeptical of the law, but also that they are reluctant to have it fully repealed.

The healthcare overhaul, which requires most people to obtain coverage by 2014 or face penalties, played a significant role in Republican congressional victories in November and could still a major issue in the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections.

"Everybody will have an opportunity to be on record," McConnell said.

The vote against repealing the law could be troublesome for some Democrats who face re-election next year in Republican-leaning states.

But Senator Charles Schumer said Democrats had the votes to kill the repeal amendment. "I think there is support ... on the floor, to make sure the basic healthcare bill stays intact," he said.

Meanwhile, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John Barrasso introduced a separate bill that would allow states to opt out of the coverage mandates in the healthcare law as well provisions that expand Medicaid medical coverage for the poor.

Graham said so many cash-strapped states would opt out that the entire law would fail.

"It would be easy for me to envision a majority of the states opting out of Obamacare within a year," Graham said, using a derisive term for the healthcare law. "The bill would fall, and we'd have to replace it with something that made more sense."

A federal judge in Florida ruled on Monday to strike down the entire healthcare law, because he found the mandate that all Americans should buy health insurance unconstitutional. The administration is appealing the decision and White House officials have said implementation of the law will continue.

Republicans also argue that the law is unconstitutional and places too big a financial burden on small businesses.

The constitutional issue is expected eventually to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats have used the repeal effort to try to highlight the more politically popular aspects of the law.

They argue that the law is already benefiting people, particularly provisions that allow young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26 and added prescription drug benefits to the elderly. They argue it also stops insurance industry practices that many people found unfair, including denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.

(Reporting by Kim Dixon, Donna Smith and Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Christopher Wilson and Sandra Maler)

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Comments (8)
DrJJJJ wrote:
Tort reform, catastrophic insurance for all( +30 million in the pool), spur competition nationwide and beat a path to the best practices-which states/countries are making it work and why?? Simple formula folks, minus 2000+ pages and massive government overhead that would make it worse! The main reason it’s not cost effective-30 million plus are covered by law and pay next to nothing! No brainer-math will never work! Everybody pays a little something at a minium! Also, we need to vote for a seperate flat type tax/fee on all mid to upper income folks to pay into a risk pool to help the least of us with pre existing conditions! Call it the compassion fee!

Feb 01, 2011 12:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Chazz wrote:
Is this the same Schumer who said, “you know, we have three branches of government. We have a House. We have a Senate. We have a president?”

Reid says ‘patients are in control now.” Really? After mandating that they HAVE to buy government insurance I guess we are in control…but then the president, (one of the three controlling powers of the government) thinks or thought ‘if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.”

Remove the court and these “freedoms” are possible. That’s why you see the Govt reacting to sully the FEDERAL Judge’s decision yesterday, and why you hear these “educated” Palin-like(?) comments from the esteemed Chuck Schumer.

And I thought the president was a Constitutional ’scholar…’

Feb 01, 2011 1:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
BHOlied wrote:
I agree that it will survive the Senate – but the D’s will have to show their colors once again. Those that are on the block in 2012 will have to answer to the people.

The bill that is up for repeal was not passed through democratic channels – it was smashed through the back door.

All who value democracy should be afraid of these tactics on either side of the aisle.

Feb 01, 2011 1:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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