WASHINGTON -- Democrats defeated a Republican effort to overturn health care reform on Wednesday when they blocked a repeal amendment from being added to an unrelated bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. The symbolic amendment was defeated 51 to 47, with no Democratic senators crossing the aisle to vote for repeal. But Republicans vowed afterward to continue bringing challenges to the law.
"We think this is just the beginning," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. "We will be going back at it in a variety of different ways. There are also funding issues. We'll be looking at it in every different way and hoping our friends on the other side of the aisle will have other epiphanies."
Bolstered by a Florida judge who ruled the law unconstitutional on Monday, Republicans said they will fight against the law until it is repealed. One bill, introduced on Tuesday by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would allow states to opt-out of portions of the health care law. "I'm going to do everything I can to bring this law down and start over," Graham said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The state opt-out measure has not yet been offered as an amendment to the FAA bill, and Republican leaders were silent on whether it they planned to offer it in the near future. But they said they would continue challenging the law until it overturns.
Lawmakers filed more than a dozen other amendments to the FAA bill on Tuesday and Wednesday, including a measure from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) to cut off domestic spending if Congress does not act on raising the debt ceiling.
Earlier in the session, the senate overwhelmingly approved an amendment to repeal one measure of the health care law in an 81-17 vote. The amendment, offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) but based on an earlier bill introduced by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), would remove the 1099 provision, a much-criticized segment of the health care overhaul that would require businesses to file forms to the IRS for vendors with whom they have $600 or more in transactions.
Another amendment to repeal the 1099 provision, introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), failed 44-54. Levin's amendment would have given Congress control over what spending cuts will be made to pay for the $22 billion cost of repealing the 1099 provision.
The senate will hear more amendments on Thursday, and then resume work on the FAA bill when it convenes after a retreat next week.