Senate Democrats blocked a proposal to repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care law that Republicans sought to add to a U.S. highway funding bill.
Senators voted 49-43, with 60 required to advance the amendment, during an unusual Sunday session. The federal Highway Trust Fund’s authorization is set after July 31, and the Senate’s highway funding measure, H.R. 22, is significantly different from the plan passed by the House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, proposed the Obamacare repeal amendment as he also agreed to allow a vote on an amendment sought by Democrats to extend the charter of the Export-Import Bank.
The majority leader said Friday he offered the Obamacare repeal because Ex-Im “shouldn’t be the only vote” on a highway bill amendment. The Senate plans to vote on that amendment next.
McConnell said Sunday that Obamacare is “filled with higher costs, fewer choices and broken promises” and “continues to hammer hardworking middle-class families.”
The House has voted about 60 times to repeal or delay all or part of Obamacare. The Senate was under Democratic control until January.
Senate Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said a vote to repeal Obamacare would return to a time when health care was “for the healthy and the wealthy.”
“The moment you repeal the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans lose protections against pre-existing conditions,” Wyden said.
Congress adopted a budget in May that would allow Republicans to use a procedure called reconciliation to bypass Democrats and send a repeal of Obamacare to the president’s desk. Obama would veto that, though, and Democrats would provide enough votes to sustain the veto.
Congressional Republicans last month acknowledged their options were limited in replacing Obamacare after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law’s federal subsidies.