The US Senate voted last night to strike down a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The bill fell by a party-line vote of 51 to 47.
It needed a 60-vote super majority to pass, and was widely expected to fail as it did.
The GOP-led House voted in recent weeks to repeal the health reform laws passed by the former Democratic majority in Congress. Many Republicans touted the vote as a victory for Republicans who’d sent them to Washington in a wave of conservative victories in November.
But, as the White House promised, the vote turned out to be purely symbolic. Had it passed, President Barack Obama would have dealt it a veto.
The vote effectively showed that even after their victories in the House and months of hyperbolic rhetoric, Republicans remain a minority in government, still ineffectual in the face of President Obama and the Democratic Senate.
That may have been all part of the Republicans’ plan, however: a big splash at the beginning of the term, with a more piecemeal approach to tearing the laws down.
A recent legal victory in federal court, striking down the mandate that all Americans buy health insurance, could be one key to achieving their ends.
In a decision last week, US District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, a Reagan appointee, agreed with 26 states that brought a lawsuit against health reform, saying Congress cannot penalize individuals that do not buy insurance by 2014.
“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void,” he declared in the ruling.
In mid-December, a federal judge in Virginia also ruled against the health reform laws, similarly declaring unconstitutional the “individual mandate” provision.
The Obama administration said it would appeal the rulings. The case for an individual mandate was widely seen as one which would end up before the US Supreme Court.
In a separate effort, Sen. Lindsey Graham (D-SC) recently co-sponsored legislation that would allow states to “opt-out” of the health provisions.
While most states would likely do so to avoid financial burdens, at least one state, Vermont, was angling to do so in order to introduce a universal coverage, single-payer system.
Single-payer health care is a socialized system of payment similar to Medicare that most industrialized nations use to pay for their citizens’ medical needs. In this system, costs are universally shared by the taxpayers, meaning payment is not due upon receipt of services.
Objecting to what they call Republican hypocrisy, congressional Democrats have mocked their conservative counterparts for accepting taxpayer-subsidized health care as employees of the federal government. They’ve called for Republicans to simply give up their public plans and take it upon themselves to buy private insurance.
“You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don’t happen to be Members of Congress,” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) wrote in November. “If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk.”
This video is from the Associated Press, published Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011.
With prior reporting by Daniel Tencer and Sahil Kapur.