Senate to vote on healthcare repeal

The Senate plans to vote Wednesday on legislation to repeal President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, following a deal between Democrats and Republicans to schedule the largely symbolic roll call.

The repeal, which GOP lawmakers are trying to attach to an aviation bill, is expected to fall short of the necessary 60-vote supermajority. Democrats hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate, including independents who caucus with them.

But the repeal vote will give Republicans the recorded tally they have been seeking since the GOP-controlled House approved a repeal resolution two weeks ago.


And it will put pressure on centrist Democrats facing reelection in 2012, some of whom are expected to back repeal. Democratic leaders were working Tuesday to hold enough votes to stop Republicans from getting a symbolic 51-vote majority for the repeal amendment.

The Senate Republican Campaign Committee sent an online alert to pressure several centrist Democrats, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) challenged them on the Senate floor.

“It’s an opportunity to reevaluate your vote, to listen to your constituents who are desperately trying to get your attention,” he told his colleagues. “You can say, ‘Perhaps this was a mistake.’ ”

Democrats chided Republicans for seeking to score political points rather than trying to improve the law.

“We want to work together on things to make it better, but not fight old fights, create political fights and division, and certainly not roll back the clock where we put all the control in insurance companies,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said.

Stabenow is offering an alternative amendment to the aviation bill that would strip out a burdensome paperwork provision of the healthcare law that business groups have criticized. The provision requires businesses to report purchases exceeding $600 to the Internal Revenue Service.

The congressional maneuvering came as Republican state officials and the Obama administration worked to make sense of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger E. Vinson in a lawsuit by 26 states challenging the law.

Vinson, who concluded that the law’s requirement that everyone purchase health insurance is unconstitutional, did not suspend the law but said the government should abide by his decision to effectively invalidate it.

That prompted Wisconsin’s attorney general to say Tuesday that his state, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, could stop implementing the law.

“Effectively, Wisconsin was relieved of any obligations or duties that were created under terms of the federal healthcare law,” J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, said in a statement.

Wisconsin officials said they had not decided whether they would cease implementing the law.

Officials in other states said they were reviewing their options. In states that are not part of the lawsuit, several governors said Tuesday they were moving ahead to implement the law.

The Justice Department is considering whether it will move to stay Vinson’s ruling to avert any interruption in carrying out the law.