(Bloomberg) — Senate Democrats blocked a proposal to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) 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, R-Ky., proposed the PPACA 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 PPACA 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 PPACA 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 PPACA. The Senate was under Democratic control until January.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said a vote to repeal PPACA 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.
All Republicans who voted came out for repeal. All Democrats who voted oppposed repeal. Two Democrats, five Republicans, and an independent, Bernie Sanders, did not vote on the measure.
Congress adopted a budget in May that would allow Republicans to use a procedure called reconciliation to bypass Democrats and send a repeal of PPACA 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 PPACA after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law’s federal subsidies.
—With assistance from Kathleen Miller and Jeff Plungis in Washington.