The Democratic majority in the Senate late Wednesday voted down a GOP measure to repeal the health care law. The vote was 47-51, largely along party lines.
Senate Republicans, who are unified in their desire to repeal the bill, have known all year they had virtually no chance to pass a repeal measure. But Republicans campaigned in the midterm elections on a promise to "repeal and replace" the law, and they have been eager to show they are trying to follow through on their promise. The Republican-led House passed a repeal bill last month.
With a Democratic president and Republicans 13 votes short of the 60 votes they would need to break a filibuster in the Senate, the odds of the law being overturned legislatively in the next two years are essentially zero. It is possible that it will be overturned in the courts, however; two federal judges have deemed the law unconstitutional, while two have found it to be constitutional. The issue will likely end up before the Supreme Court.
In classic Senate fashion, the vote on the repeal measure was anything but straightforward. The repeal measure was actually in the form of an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, and the vote was actually on a "budget point of order" and needed 60 votes for passage.
"Voters in Missouri and nationwide sent a clear message last fall that they wanted their leaders in Washington to repeal and replace this law," Sen. Roy Blunt said in a statement following the vote. "I'm deeply disappointed that my colleagues across the aisle refused to listen to that clear message, and instead voted to defend this bill, which two federal courts have already deemed unconstitutional."
Another amendment to the health care repeal law did see passage, however - an amendment to repeal a provision that requires businesses to file a 1099 form with the IRS for every vendor with which they've done $600 worth of business or more. Both parties were sympathetic to complaints from the business community that the provision would create onerous paperwork requirements, and the amendment passed easily and with bipartisan support, 81-17.
The change is supported by the White House, and Democrats are pointing to it as evidence of their willingness to tweak - but not repeal - the law. The House last year failed to pass repeal of the 1099 provision despite bipartisan support, and must take it up this year before it can go to the president's desk.