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Democrats Expect to Block Repeal Vote

Bill Clark/Roll Call

“The main concern I would have is, if they do offer [repeal], what are they going to do to be fiscally responsible?” Manchin said, referring to a Congressional Budget Office analysis predicting that repeal would grow the federal deficit. “I just think that there is so much good we can do by fixing it — working together — than we can by just throwing everything out.”

With the repeal effort set to fail in the Senate, Minority Whip Jon Kyl said his GOP colleagues would take their cues from House Republicans going forward.

“The House Members have talked about a process of taking sections of the bill and trying to remove them from the bill by repeal,” the Arizona Republican said. “My guess is, what the Senate Republicans will do is follow suit. ... The House leadership might start that ball rolling, and we’ll take up what they’re able to do.”

Johanns said he expects his 1099 repeal to be accepted as a part of the amendment package to the FAA bill and was confident it could pass. Johanns announced late Thursday that he had assembled a 60-vote bloc of support, including at least 15 Democrats, and Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they support the repeal of the tax provision. 

However, Sen. Debbie Stabenow on Tuesday introduced a similar measure as an amendment to the FAA bill. The Michigan Democrat was previously listed as a co-sponsor of the Johanns proposal, and it was unclear what effect her legislation would have on the effort or whether one vehicle would ultimately be favored over the other.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders conceded a willingness to make additional changes beyond the 1099 fix. “If there are things you think shouldn’t be in the bill, come talk to us,” Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said during floor remarks otherwise focused on urging the rejection of the repeal amendment.

Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), two Democrats facing tough 2012 re-election fights in Republican-leaning states, signaled that they want to repeal the mandate to buy health insurance that is such an integral part of the statute.

Under McCaskill’s alternative, people who wait to buy insurance when they are sick would pay higher rates. The Missouri Democrat said the Medicare prescription drug plan operates similarly to discourage gaming the system. But McCaskill complained that Republicans are uninterested in fixing the law.

“It’s almost as if the other side doesn’t want to get it repealed and doesn’t want to get it fixed,” she told reporters. “They’d rather use it as a political sledgehammer.”

Senate Republicans have never been shy about plans to use health care to their political advantage. In particular, they want Democratic Senators who are up for re-election next year to take tough votes on the matter. If these Democrats vote to maintain the law, Republicans would use the votes as a political weapon.

If they happen to defect and join Republicans to help repeal the health care law, the GOP will score the policy victory that they think is necessary to reduce unemployment and ease pressure on the deficit.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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