GOP's Health Repeal Efforts Fail In The Senate

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Senate Republicans were unable to move forward with their attempt to repeal the health care overhaul law. Democrats defeated the measure on a party-line vote Wednesday. But GOP leaders promise this is one step in the long road toward taking down the new health law.


Members of President Reagan's party in the United States Senate made an effort to repeal the healthcare law yesterday. Republicans lost that vote on party lines - 51-47 - but Republicans and Democrats joined together to repeal one small provision in the law. NPR's Audie Cornish reports from Capitol Hill.

AUDIE CORNISH: This is the closest Republicans in the Senate have come to getting a repeal of the healthcare overhaul, and it still wasn't very close. The measure would have waived a budget act requirement so that a repeal could be attached as an amendment to a federal aviation bill. It sounds complicated, but the end result is the same: this attempt at a rollback of the healthcare law failed.

Still, this was no act of symbolism, said Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn.

Senator JOHN CORNYN (Republican, Texas): There's a narrative I've seen and read out there that this is somehow a futile act because Republicans didn't have the votes to repeal Obamacare. But I have to tell you, this is - these are the first steps in a long road that will culminate in 2012.

CORNISH: Earlier in the day on the Senate floor, Democrats railed against the repeal, which got a boost from a federal court decision in Florida this week. Judge Roger Vinson declared the requirement that all citizens buy health insurance unconstitutional. But Illinois Democrat Senator Dick Durbin said the GOP was putting too much stock in such rulings.

Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): The federal minimum wage law was found unconstitutional by a lower court and then the Supreme Court across the street said no, it's constitutional. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was found unconstitutional by a lower court and then across the street the Supreme Court said constitutional. So let's not get carried away with lower court decisions that are clearly split on this issue.

CORNISH: Democrats stymied the repeal effort on the Senate floor because Congressional Budget Office analysts determine it would increase the deficit. That meant the amendment would need 60 votes the GOP didn't have to get the measure going.

Arizona Republican John McCain argued that it was the healthcare law itself, not the repeal, that would cost taxpayers and that the CBO scores could not be trusted.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): The Congressional Budget Office makes decisions directly related to the input and the parameters and the details of legislation and how they are sent. So what I'm saying is: garbage in, garbage out.

Senator BARBARA MIKULSKI (Democrat, Maryland): But yet it was the Republican Party that said we couldn't move anything, bring up anything, even go get a Kleenex without getting a CBO score.

CORNISH: Maryland Democrat Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Ms. MIKULSKI: So you can't say I want a CBO score one day and then make fun of it the next - garbage in, garbage out.

CORNISH: Democrats also pointed to another of the day's votes as evidence they're willing to amend the healthcare law. A measure was approved canceling a tax-reporting regulation for businesses. But rehashing the arguments over the healthcare overhaul inspired one legislator to file a resolution calling for the Supreme Court to intervene sooner rather than later. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson says that's the only way to end the debate that will otherwise last for years.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.

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