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Moderate Senate Democrats who voted to repeal a provision of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law say they are open to working with Republicans on more changes — but only if those changes are meant to improve, rather than dismantle, the measure.
All but a dozen Senate Democrats joined a united Senate GOP Conference on Tuesday in voting 87-12 to send Obama the House-passed version of a bill to repeal a requirement that companies to file a 1099 form with the IRS every time they conduct $600 worth of business with a vendor.
Members of both parties had panned the provision as overly burdensome to small businesses, but the White House and some Senate Democrats objected to the bill’s method of offsetting revenue that would be lost if the provision is repealed. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), would pay for the change by requiring some families to repay more health insurance subsidies.
Senate Republican leaders seized on Tuesday’s overwhelming vote as an indication that there would be bipartisan support for other efforts to chip away at the law.
“A bunch of Democrats voted for this repeal, so there will be other efforts,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
Congressional Democrats have been unified in their opposition to Republicans’ efforts to push a full-scale repeal. Not a single Senate Democrat backed a McConnell amendment Feb. 2 that would have repealed the health care law, and just three House Democrats backed a GOP repeal bill Jan. 19.
Still, roughly half a dozen moderate Senate Democrats said Tuesday that there are changes they would like to see to the law but that they would be willing to work with Republicans only if they had assurances that GOP lawmakers were working in good faith and not just trying to score political points.
“I’ve got an open mind on any other improvements, but I just want to make sure that it’s an improvement, not an effort to dismantle it,” said Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, who was the final Democratic holdout before the health care bill passed the Senate in 2009.
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, another vulnerable Democrat up in 2012, said she was “always willing to look at anything to make the bill better” and that she would work with Republicans to do so.
“I’m not shutting the door on any discussion on ways to improve the legislation,” McCaskill said, adding that she was particularly interested expanding pilot programs to create more incentives to deliver preventive care.