The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to repeal last year’s health care overhaul law, sending the measure to the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to force a vote on the issue.
According to a GOP leadership aide, the Kentucky Republican is actively working on a plan to force a showdown on the Senate floor over President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement of his first two years in office. Such a confrontation is likely “in the near future,” the aide said.
“They are discussing how they are going to do it, but they haven’t made a decision,” the aide added.
McConnell offered his congratulations on the 245-189 vote to his House GOP colleagues, none of whom opposed the repeal measure.
“I hope the Senate will soon follow suit with a vote of its own,” he said. “The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want to vote on this bill. But I assure you, we will.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has repeatedly said he will not bring the repeal to the floor, and Obama has said he would veto it if both chambers passed it.
Nevertheless, Republicans in the Senate have begun agitating for a vote.
“House Republicans have listened to the American people by acting to repeal this law. The question is whether the White House and its allies in the Senate will follow suit and support similar legislation that responds to the will of the people,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking member on the Finance Committee, said Wednesday.
How McConnell will force a vote remains unclear. As Minority Leader he does not set the Senate schedule, and Democrats will likely reject any effort to add the repeal to any other bill that is on the floor.
That does not mean that McConnell is without options. For instance, he could force a vote to suspend the rules in an effort to add the repeal as an amendment to another bill over Democratic objections. But given that such a move would require a 67-vote supermajority, it would certainly fail.
McConnell could also make a motion to proceed to the repeal bill and then file cloture on that motion. Such a maneuver would also prove fruitless, since Republicans are well short of the 60 votes that would be needed to overcome a filibuster by invoking cloture.
But while these and other scenarios have little chance of success, they would provide Republicans with potentially valuable political fodder to use against Democrats during next year’s elections. Republicans could accuse Democrats of stifling debate, and they could offer the votes of moderate Democrats like Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) as evidence of renewed support for the health care law.
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