On a day rich in political theater, Senate Republicans pushed for repeal of the year-old health care law on Wednesday, certain of defeat yet eager to force rank-and-file Democrats to take a stand on an issue steeped in controversy.
The showdown approached as lawmakers in both parties agreed the law’s fate rests with the Supreme Court, not Congress.
Even so, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the vote marked an opportunity for Democrats who voted for the bill last year “to listen to those who have desperately been trying to get your attention.”
“To say, yes, maybe my vote for this bill was a mistake, and that we can do better,” McConnell said.
Democrats worked to minimize any political repercussions, a concern for a party already acutely aware it must defend 22 seats — and its shrunken Senate majority — in the 2012 elections.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Republican repeal movement would “take away a child’s right to get health insurance and instead give insurance companies the right to use asthma or diabetes as an excuse to take away that care.”
“It would kick kids off their parents’ health insurance,” Reid said. “It would take away seniors’ rights to a free wellness check.”
Democrats also countered with a proposed repeal of a relatively small part of the bill not directly connected to health care. It requires all businesses, charities, and state and local governments to file income tax forms every time they purchase $600 or more in goods, and has become a magnet for critics of the legislation.
Obama has already said he is willing to strip the requirement from the law.
Across the street from the Capitol, Democrats convened a Judiciary Committee hearing to solicit testimony on the constitutionality of the law they passed and Obama signed months ago.