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Senate OKs Republican bill unraveling health care law

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks from the chamber as Republicans pushed legislation toward Senate approval that would demolish President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and halt Planned Parenthood’s federal money.

WASHINGTON >> With Republicans openly welcoming a preordained veto, the Senate on Thursday approved legislation aimed at crippling two of their favorite targets: President Barack Obama’s health care law and Planned Parenthood.

With a House rubber stamp expected in days, the bill would be the first to reach Obama’s desk demolishing his 2010 health care overhaul, one of his proudest domestic achievements, and halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Congress has voted dozens of times to repeal or weaken the health law and repeatedly against Planned Parenthood’s funding, but until now Democrats thwarted Republicans from shipping the legislation to the White House.

Thursday’s vote was a near party-line 52-47.

Republicans said an Obama veto — which the White House has promised — will underscore that a GOP triumph in next year’s presidential and congressional elections would mean repeal of a statute they blame for surging medical costs and insurers abandoning some markets. They lack the two-thirds House and Senate majorities needed to override vetoes, assuring that the bill’s chief purpose will be for campaign talking points.

“President Obama will have a choice,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “He can defend a status quo that’s failed the middle class by vetoing the bill, or he can work toward a new beginning and better care by signing it.”

Republicans blame the bill for surging health care costs and insurers abandoning some markets. Government officials said this week that health care spending grew at 5.3 percent in 2014, the steepest climb since Obama took office.

Democrats noted that under the law, millions of people have become insured and said their coverage has improved, with policies now required to insure a wide range of medical services.

“Do they talk to their constituents? Do they meet with them?” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of Republicans.

With just a 54-46 edge, Republicans had previously failed push such legislation through the Senate. This time, they used a special budget procedure that prevents filibusters — delays that take 60 votes to halt — and let them prevail with a simple majority.

Party leaders initially encountered objections from some more moderate Republicans leery of cutting Planned Parenthood’s funds and from presidential contenders, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, who threatened to oppose the measure if it wasn’t strong enough.

In the end, Cruz and Rubio voted “yes.” Moderate GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois voted no, the only lawmakers to cross party lines, while Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., did not vote.

The Senate bill would all but erase the health care overhaul by dismantling some of its key pillars, including requirements that most people obtain coverage and larger employers offer it to workers.

Also eliminated would be its expansion of Medicaid coverage to additional lower-income people and the government’s subsidies for many who buy policies on newly created insurance marketplaces. And it would end taxes the law imposed to cover its costs, including levies on higher-income people, expensive insurance policies, medical devices and indoor tanning salons.

The bill would also terminate the roughly $450 million yearly in federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood, about a third of its budget. Federal funds can be used for abortions only in rare cases.

A perennial target of conservatives, the group has been under intensified GOP pressure this year for its role in providing fetal tissue to scientists. Citing secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing such sales, some abortion foes have accused the organization of illegally providing the tissue for profit. The group says the videos were deceptively doctored and say it’s done nothing illegal.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Dawn Laguens said the Senate had given the group’s millions of clients “the cold shoulder of indifference.”

Senators voted on over a dozen amendments — all symbolic, since the measure was destined to never become law.

They rejected two amendments that would have restored Planned Parenthood’s money. They blocked proposals for tightening gun curbs, a response to Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, last week’s fatal attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and last month’s terrorist massacre in Paris.

They also voted 90-10 to permanently repeal taxes on high-priced “Cadillac” insurance policies, a strong signal of growing congressional momentum for erasing that levy.

GOP lawmakers said the overall bill could serve as a bridge to a future Republican health care law. Though Obama’s overhaul was enacted five years ago, Republicans have yet to produce a detailed proposal to replace it.

“It’s either repeal or nothing,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who heads the Senate Democratic campaign committee, said of the GOP’s failure to propose an alternative. “I’ll take that to the polls and we’ll talk about it until the cows come home.”

Republicans argued voters were on their side.

“We’ve reached a pretty scary time in our nation’s history where we have Americans writing and calling their elected representatives saying they need relief from their own government,” said No. 2 Senate Leader John Cornyn of Texas. “We have a mandate, I believe, to repeal this terrible law.”

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  • Purely a charade since Obama will veto it in a heartbeat and the GOTP has nowhere near the number of votes needed to override. We should’ve realized that half measures avail us nothing, and insisted on a true single payor overhaul to bring us into line with the rest of the world.

    The CEO of Aetna Insurance has gone on record as backing a single payor health insurance system for the US. When even the head of a giant health insurance corporation sees the light, it’s obvious the time for this step forward is long overdue.

    In the meantime the clock is ticking on a government shutdown and instead of passing a clean finance bill, the GOTP is larding it up shamelessly with all sorts of partisan riders which the majority of voters would never support if given the opportunity.

    • It is highly amusing to watch a party that proclaims personal responsibility to actively vote to end that in healthcare, instead promoting millions of people to go back to being uninsured and stealing billions in healthcare monies from ratepayers with zero penalty. Remember kids, if Obama is for personal responsibility, then the GOP won’t stand for that all. The GOP just advocated for massive insurance dollar theft.

  • Republicans are so out to lunch it is pathetic. There is no way this will survive a presidential veto which is fortunate for them. If the idi*t republicans succeed, well then they will have to resolve the underlying issue behind Obamacare. Out of control health care costs. Don’t ever forget idi*t republicans, Obama care was a REPUBLICAN INVENTION. First proposed by a republican president and first implemented by a republican governor.

    • that didn’t receive a SINGLE Republican vote. You always seem to forget that part. Maybe what was proposed before and what O’bamacare is, ISN’T the same model? Look that up.

      • Or more accurately, the GOP abandoned their own beliefs because Obama adopted them. So pretty much the past 7 years where the GOP defines its platform based on whatever Obama is for or against at the moment. Pretty funny to watch tax cut supporters declare that the stimulus was a failure when 1/3rd of the stimulus was straight tax cuts for those who work. Apparently rewarding work with tax cuts is BAD to the GOP solely because a Democrat supported it.

        The individual mandate is a Conservative, personal responsibility idea. Take responsibility for your own healthcare and insurance and stop stealing from everyone else.

        Yesterday, the GOP voted to end personal responsibility in medical insurance and promoted outright theft. Why? Because their primary goal is being against anything Obama is for. Even if they used to believe that same belief themselves.

        • At the end of the day, NO Republican is responsible for this O’bamacare mess. End of story.

  • At least the Republicans are honest. There should be no doubt that their agenda is to do everything possible for their corporate donors while cutting programs that help struggling Americans. On the other hand, the Democrats pretend to care about the middle class but do and say little since they, too, must answer to their corporate masters.

  • Obamadon’tcare is a gift to no one, it was poorly conceived and pretty much unwanted by more and more Americans. Next year, as more insurance companies quit the program, and the fines start to bump up, this move will be more visionary. Only Obamabots find Obamadon’tcare a great program.

    • Still better than the GOP model of free riding and massive theft of insurance dollars from ratepayers. Want to tell me why you hate personal responsibility yet pretend to be a Conservative?

  • OMG! I won’t be able to visit my “tanning salon” anymore! I can’t believe I’ll have to lay-down in that dirty sand and wash-off in that ocean water…

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