Senate May Vote This Week on Obamacare Repeal Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 1, 2011   |   12:11PM   |   Washington, DC

The Senate may vote as early as this week on legislation that would repeal the Obamacare law that contains abortion and rationing concerns of pro-life groups. The vote would come on the heels of a ruling by a federal judge declaring the law unconstitutional.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said today the Senate may vote on the House-passed legislation this week, putting on Twitter: “Vote on health care repeal could come as early as this week in the Senate.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Jim DeMint of North Carolina, both of whom are pro-life, have led the way in the effort to repeal the Obamacare legislation. last week, McConnell started the process of attempting to get the Senate to repeal the law by employing a Senate rule typically reserved for party leaders that allows them to bypass committee action on legislation and place the bill directly before the Senate.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid mostly controls the Senate calendar and which bills have an opportunity for debate and a vote and the Rule 14 motion McConnell used takes a couple of days to move along before any potential battle on bringing up the bill can begin. Democrats are expected to object to the vote and McConnell would need 60 votes to overcome the objection and allow a vote on the repeal bill. That is considered unlikely.

Today on the Senate floor, McConell said:  “When two federal courts in a row rule that this bill is unconstitutional, and we learn every day of some other way it’s not only making healthcare worse, but also hurting jobs and the economy, it’s no wonder more Americans support repeal than oppose it. Court rulings like the one out of Florida yesterday only add to the urgency of scrapping this bill and starting over.”

McConnell said it would be a “dereliction of duty” for Republicans not to fight for repeal.

“I don’t know why in the world they wouldn’t want to have a vote on repeal and proudly vote against it,” McConnell told reporters last week, according to Politico. “But if they choose not to — to have the vote in a, sort of, volunteer — voluntary way, we will have it, I assure you.”

In his opening remarks this morning Reid gave no inication of whether he would allow a vote, but defended the law.

Meanwhile, DeMint introduced legislation to repeal Obamacare — essentially the Senate version of the bill the House previously approved. Every Republican senator has joined DeMint to co-sponsor the legislation, making it clear GOP lawmakers will stand united against the pro-abortion, pro-rationing legislation.

On either the bill or the procedural motion, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is likely disinclined to allow a vote on repeal because of the 23 Senate Democrats who face re-election in 2012 — many of whom hail from states where they will face very difficult re-election campaigns. Forcing them to vote on repealing Obamacare, and subsequently voting no when polling data suggests a majority of Americans remain opposed to the law, would be politically difficult.

Monday’s court ruling declaring the law unconstitutional probably will not persuade Reid to allow a vote. Instead, Democrats appear resolved to defend the legislation — with pro-abortion Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin chairing a hearing this week that will be a dog and pony show for the law.

The ruling saw U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson say the individual mandate is unconstitutional and, therefore, the entire law is as well.

The individual mandate is a portion of the law independent and conservative voters most strongly oppose because it requires Americans to purchase health insurance, that could fund abortions with taxpayer funds or premiums, whether they want to or not. The case the state of Florida and more than two dozen others made to Judge Vinson is that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and the Constitution does not allow Congress to regular financial inactivity.

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void,” the judge wrote. “This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.’”

“Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution,” the judge wrote. “This case is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation. It is about the Constitutional role of the federal government.”

“Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with individual mandate,” he added.

The Obama administration says it will appeal the decision to the U.S. Appeals Court based in Atlanta, Georgia. Judge Vinson did not stop the implementation of the law pending the appeal which could take two years to reach the Supreme Court and result in a decision.

When Congress passed the government-run health care bill, it did so without any limits on abortion funding and language mandating taxpayer financing of abortion in certain circumstances.

Obama eventually issued a controversial executive order supposedly taking the abortion funding issue off the table.

However, virtually every pro-life group said it would not mitigate the abortion funding because it doesn’t have the effect of law, could be reversed in the future, and because it didn’t tackle much of the abortion funding in the bill. The Obama administration could also ignore the order and not put it in place when the health care law goes into effect.

Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana have passed similar bills that have already been signed into law by governors in those states and several other states are expected to consider legislation in their upcoming legislative sessions. Governors in Oklahoma and Florida vetoed similar legislation.