Senate OKs Republican bill unraveling health care law
Alan Fram (Associated Press) - December 3, 2015 - 7:42pm

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday approved legislation aimed at crippling two of their favorite targets: President Barack Obama's health care law and Planned Parenthood.

With a House rubber stamp expected in days, the bill would be the first to reach Obama's desk demolishing his 2010 health care overhaul, one of his proudest domestic achievements, and halting federal payments to the national women's healthcare provider Planned Parenthood. Congress has voted dozens of times to repeal or weaken the health law and repeatedly against Planned Parenthood's funding, but until now Democrats thwarted Republicans from shipping the legislation to the White House.

Thursday's vote was a near party-line 52-47.

Republicans said an Obama veto — which the White House has promised — will underscore that a Republican triumph in next year's presidential and congressional elections would mean repeal of a statute they blame for surging medical costs and insurers abandoning some markets. They lack the two-thirds House and Senate majorities needed to override vetoes, assuring that the bill's chief purpose will be for campaign talking points.

"President Obama will have a choice," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "He can defend a status quo that's failed the middle class by vetoing the bill, or he can work toward a new beginning and better care by signing it."

Republicans blame the bill for surging health care costs and insurers abandoning some markets. Government officials said this week that health care spending grew at 5.3 percent in 2014, the steepest climb since Obama took office.

Democrats noted that under the law, millions of people have become insured and said their coverage has improved, with policies now required to insure a wide range of medical services.

"Do they talk to their constituents? Do they meet with them?" Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat said of Republicans.

With just a 54-46 edge, Republicans had previously failed push such legislation through the Senate. This time, they used a special budget procedure that prevents filibusters — delays that take 60 votes to halt — and let them prevail with a simple majority.

The Senate bill would all but erase the health care overhaul by dismantling some of its key pillars, including requirements that most people obtain coverage and larger employers offer it to workers.

The bill would also terminate the roughly $450 million yearly in federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood, about a third of its budget. Federal funds can be used for abortions only in rare cases.

A perennial target of conservatives, the group has been under intensified Republican pressure this year for its role in providing fetal tissue to scientists. Citing secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing such sales, some abortion foes have accused the organization of illegally providing the tissue for profit. The group says the videos were deceptively doctored and say it's done nothing illegal.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Dawn Laguens said the Senate had given the group's millions of clients "the cold shoulder of indifference."

DAWN LAGUENS HOUSE AND SENATE OBAMA PLANNED PARENTHOOD PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENT OBAMA QUOT SENATE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH SENATE MINORITY LEADER HARRY REID WHITE HOUSE
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