Senate Republicans are moving forward a budget bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood
Lawmakers also debated gun control measures one day following the mass shooting in Southern California
The Senate Thursday approved on a largely party line vote a budget bill that would repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, two top priorities of Republicans who control the chamber.
Not to be outdone, Democrats seized the debate to try to force votes on gun control legislation that could put some Republicans in a politically tough position as the country is reeling from a recent spate of mass shootings.
By voting to nullify Obamacare – the signature domestic accomplishment of the Obama administration – GOP congressional leaders fulfilled a longtime pledge to voters and rank-and-file members to get a repeal to President Barack Obama’s desk, even though he will veto it.
Republican leaders also want to send an unmistakable message to voters: If you elect a GOP president next year and keep the them in charge of Congress, Obamacare will go.
“It demonstrates that if you have a president prepared to support health care reform, it could pass next time,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act who insisted this was not a show vote just because the President will veto the bill. “If this vote occurred after the next presidential election, instead of vetoing it the President would sign it. This would force a bipartisan reevaluation of health care in America and put us in a position to make major changes.”
The bill would also cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the women’s health group that provides abortions and has long under GOP scrutiny. Republicans’ passions to cutoff taxpayer dollars to the organization increased in recent months when videos were released that purported to show Planned Parenthood executives selling the tissue of aborted fetuses to researchers.
While the House and Senate have voted scores of times to repeal portions of Obamacare, this was the first time they are using a special tool known as “budget reconciliation” that allow the measure to clear the Senate with just 51 votes instead of the 60 votes typically required for major legislation. That higher threshold has allowed Democrats to block all past repeal efforts.
By steering these two hot-button issues into the reconciliation bill, Republican leaders also steered them away from a separate must-pass government funding bill Congress is dealing with now known as the omnibus. Had those controversial issues been included in that bill, it would have made even harder to pass before the December 11 deadline when the government could shut down.
As with Obamacare, Senate Democrats have blocked recent efforts to defund the organization so the reconciliation bill became the GOP’s best option to move the measure.
“Middle class Americans continue to call on Washington to build a bridge away from Obamacare. They want better care. They want real health reform,” argued Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “For too long, Democrats did everything t