Government

Health Care Repeal Fails in U.S. Senate

Bill Nelson wants to take matter to Supreme Court; Marco Rubio backs the repeal
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: February 2, 2011 6:48 PM

On Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate rejected Republican efforts to push a measure repealing the federal health care law enacted in 2010 with the backing of President Barack Obama. The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a repeal measure last week.


The measure failed on a party lines vote with newly inaugurated U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio joining Republicans in backing the repeal while U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida stood with the Democratic majority and opposed the measure. The final vote was 51 Democrats standing against the measure and 47 Republicans backing the repeal.

With U.S. Judge Roger Vinson of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruling on Monday that the health care law was unconstitutional due to the individual mandate, the battle over health care looks headed to the Supreme Court of the United States -- which Nelson pointed out on Wednesday when he spoke on the Senate floor.


“Doesn’t anybody conclude that this matter is going to the Supreme Court to decide if this law is constitutional or not?” demanded Nelson. “The Supreme Court decision is going to discard political and partisan interests.


“Why don’t we just expedite the matter?” he asked, noting that he was introducing a measure to send the matter to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible.


Nelson expressed his opposition to the repeal measure but admitted the law, as it was, remained flawed.


“My preference is we fix the law, that we don’t throw it out,” added Nelson.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., went after the Republicans, saying they were more interested in playing politics than in fixing the law.


“Republicans made ‘repeal and replace’ their mantra in the year since the health reform law went into effect and started saving lives, money and Medicare,” said Reid. “Now, as they’re fighting for repeal but refusing to offer any new ideas, it’s clear what they mean by ‘replace’ – they want to replace the law of the land with a broken system we know doesn’t work. They want to replace patients’ rights with insurance companies’ power. They want to replace health with sickness. They want to replace the promise of tomorrow with the pain of yesterday.


“Republicans have had a year to propose a plan to replace the law they dislike – even though 80 percent of Americans don’t want it repealed in the first place,” added Reid. “They’ve had decades to think of ways to fix a system every president since Harry Truman has talked about reforming. But their partisan effort to put Americans’ physical health and America’s fiscal health at risk proves once again they are bankrupt of ideas."


Republicans remained firm in backing the repeal.


“It’s important that we repeal and replace Obamacare. The sooner we repeal it the better, because this law is holding back job creation and threatening current coverage plans that people are satisfied with,” said Rubio. “Today, when the first of what I hope will be many opportunities to repeal Obamacare arose, I joined all my Republican colleagues in seizing it. Unfortunately, none of our Democrat colleagues agreed. I hope the Democrats will recognize the severe flaws of this policy and eventually vote to repeal it.

 

“In the meantime, I also have strong hopes that the recent legal rulings against the federal health care law will ultimately result in its abolishment, so that we can then move on to the important work of replacing Obamacare with common-sense reforms that will lower health care costs and get more Americans insured,” added Rubio.


Nelson faced pressure from Republican leaders from the Sunshine State asking him to back the repeal effort.


“We ask that you please help protect individual rights, not only for your fellow Floridians but for all Americans by voting to repeal the intrusive and unconstitutional health care mandate,” wrote Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. “The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act poses serious threats to individuals, businesses, and state sovereignty. It forces citizens to buy government-defined health care coverage, pay a penalty, or enter into a broken Medicaid program, leaving Americans with no good choices. Families and individuals are already struggling, and the act is simply unaffordable. This job-killing law will only send insurance costs soaring and force states to spend money that, unlike federal spending, cannot be borrowed or printed.


“As the Senate prepares for its vote this evening, please listen to the will of the people,” continued Haridopolos and Cannon. “The federal ruling in Virginia and most recently Judge Vinson’s ruling in Florida confirm that this act exceeds the powers of Congress. We hope you will join efforts to ensure individual health care freedom and choice without government penalty. The people need your vote.”


Haridopolos was not the only potential Republican rival who wrote Nelson on the matter. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, who also may run against Nelson in 2012, sent a letter to Nelson on Tuesday asking him to back the repeal measure.


“It is critically important that you listen to the will of your constituents and to the federal courts that ruled it unconstitutional, and finally stop supporting this dreadful, unconstitutional and harmful piece of legislation,” wrote Mack. “Floridians await your decision, and also know to be mindful of any procedural motions ahead of the vote that would also measure your intentions.”


Mulling over Vinson’s decision on Wednesday, newly inaugurated Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent noted on Wednesday that the battle would continue.


“Senior United States District Judge Roger Vinson issued his long-anticipated ruling declaring Obamacare unconstitutional. The plaintiffs in this matter were the state of Florida and 25 other states, all of whom sought to strike down the law,” noted Nugent. “Judge Vinson found that Congress exceeded the authority granted to it under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by imposing an individual mandate requirement on the American people. The judge ruled that the individual mandate provision was unconstitutional and because the law did not contain a severability clause, the entire law must fall.”

 

While Nugent cheered the news, he added that the fight was far from over and was headed to the Supreme Court.

 

“Of course, we know that this will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court and the sooner they uphold this ruling the better,” added Nugent. “Still, it is nice to see someone get it right.”

Leaders from the Florida business community also weighed in on the health care repeal on Wednesday.

“Americans, Floridians and, most certainly, Florida’s business community have long been waving the red flag when it comes to Obamacare,” said Barney Bishop, president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF). “A poll released this past August by AIF revealed that more than half of Florida voters (53 percent) oppose President Obama’s health care plan. November’s election results underscore the country’s distaste for this mandate Congress rushed to cram down our collective throats. It’s expensive, it hurts businesses that create jobs – jobs that, coincidentally, often provide health care insurance – and it ultimately won’t produce the promised results.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.


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