Democrats Lose First Skirmish on Health Care Law

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WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Democrats’ first attempt to prevent their Republicans colleagues from repealing the federal health care law proved futile Thursday, failing to clear a procedural hurdle in a party-line vote.

An amendment offered by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., would have required Senate Republicans to cobble together 60 votes in order to pass a resolution the body is considering that will be used to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Considering the razor thin margin the GOP holds in the Senate, this requirement would have effectively doomed the Republicans dream of repealing the law commonly known as Obamacare soon after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

“If we’re either going to strip coverage from people or make health coverage more expensive or reduce the quality of health coverage for Americans than they currently have, we shouldn’t’ make that easy to do, we should put a high hurdle in place so that we have to consider it before we do it,” Kaine said before the vote.

But Sen. Mike Enzi, the Wyoming Republican who offered the resolution that will likely bring down the health care law, raised a procedural objection to the amendment, saying it was “corrosive” to the resolution.

Democrats were unable to overcome an attempt to waive this objection and Kaine’s amendment failed by a vote of 52-48.

Republicans are using a method known as budget reconciliation to push through their Obamacare repeal. Because reconciliation does not require 60 votes to move forward as a regular piece of legislation does, Republicans would not need to swing any Democrats to their side in order to repeal the law.

The vote on Kaine’s amendment comes a day after President Barack Obama met with Senate Democrats to discuss the future of the president’s signature health care achievement. Democrats emerged from that meeting promising to fight GOP efforts to repeal the law at every turn and to pin any ill consequences repeal might have firmly on their Republican colleagues.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with Republicans about their efforts to repeal the law, a key promise of the Trump campaign. Pence said after the meeting repeal will come in the form of legislation as well as executive action.

Senate Republicans have yet to offer legislation that would replace Obamacare upon repeal, something Democrats have blasted them for all week. The language of Kaine’s doomed amendment specifically banned the passage of any resolution that “makes America sick again,” continuing a Democratic co-opting of Trump’s famous campaign slogan.

The amendment later went on to define making America sick again as increasing premiums or reducing health coverage, which Democrats have long said would happen if the federal health care law were repealed without a replacement.