WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans will attempt to repeal last year's sweeping health care law via an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. A vote on the amendment, which Democratic leaders said they plan to table immediately, could occur as early as Tuesday evening.
"We're going to get rid of their efforts to repeal the health care bill, and then hopefully we can move on," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Democrats can make a motion to table the amendment -- that motion would need only majority support to succeed, meaning the GOP's symbolic effort would be certain to fail.
The FAA reauthorization bill is an early test of new Senate rule agreements designed to allow more amendments to come to the floor. After Democratic leaders introduce the first amendment to the bill, McConnell will be given the chance to introduce an amendment repealing the health care law. He has firm backing from his colleagues: All 47 GOP senators signed on in support of repeal.
Still, 47 votes is not a majority. To avoid spending more time than necessary on the repeal provision, Reid said he plans to table the amendment under budget rules because it would create costs without offsets.
"We want to debate the FAA bill," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "I was hoping Senator McConnell would not do this on this bill, but he has the right, and we'll vote for it. I don't think it's going to pass."
McConnell said he would welcome either opportunity for his caucus to vote on repeal. "Everybody will have an opportunity to be on record," he said.
Reid said he "will wait and see" whether any Democrats vote in support of the repeal amendment.
House Republicans passed a bill last month that would repeal the health care law, but even if it passed the Senate it would be vetoed by President Barack Obama. Republicans said their cause was strengthened, however, by a Florida federal court ruling on Monday that the health care law is unconstitutional.
"The bill has trouble in Congress, but also trouble in court," McConnell said. "We would have moved ahead anyway."
They will not announce plans to replace the health care law in the same day, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said. "Most of it doesn't take effect until 2014, so we have time to identify the steps that will our major objective, which is to lower the cost of health care so more American businesses can afford to buy it," Alexander said.
Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a bill earlier on Tuesday that would allow states to opt out of certain portions of the health care law without passing new legislation to meet the law's minimum standards requirements. Republicans were silent over whether that bill would also be introduced as an amendment to the FAA bill.
Democrats called Tuesday's move a political stunt to appeal to the Republican base by interfering with an unrelated bill. "Republicans want to check that box with the Tea Party and file an amendment to repeal the health care reform bill," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "It's going to lose."
Democrats also introduced a health care-related amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill. Reid said the senate will also consider an amendment introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to repeal the health care law's 1099 tax-reporting requirement, which a number of senators from both parties have said places a burden on small businesses.