Senate begins debate on Obamacare repeal bill

The Senate on Wednesday began debate on a bill that would repeal major portions of ObamaCare through the budget reconciliation process.

The bill, which the House passed in October along party lines, only needs a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate and isn't subject to the filibuster. Republicans in Congress have voted to repeal the health care law almost 60 times. This is the first time it is expected to pass the Senate and make it to the president's desk. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Thursday, which the White House said President Obama would veto.

The legislation would eliminate Obamacare's individual and employer mandates, the medical device tax and the so-called Cadillac tax. It would also cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for one year after an anti-abortion group released videos over the summer showing officials discussing the transfer of fetal tissue.

But with only 54 Republicans in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, can only afford to lose three Republican votes, assuming all members of the Senate Democratic Conference oppose the bill.

Some moderates, however, like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, could oppose the legislation because it would slash funding to Planned Parenthood.

GOP presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas and Marco Rubio, Florida, as well as Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had opposed the House version of the reconciliation because it repealed only parts of Obamacare. Conservative group Heritage Action had also slammed the House version, but now supports the Senate version because Republicans plan to go even further by including a delay of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies until 2018, among other things.

Republicans triggered the reconciliation process by passing a bicameral budget for the first time in a decade earlier this year. Democrats used the obscure budget procedure to pass Obamacare in 2009.

Congress, meanwhile, faces a Dec. 11 deadline to fund the government through next September. The negotiations on Wednesday hit an obstacle after Democrats rejected an initial offer by Republicans because it contained 30 controversial policy riders.

CBS News' John Nolen contributed to this report.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.