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Democrats demand 60-vote threshold for Obamacare repeal

“It’s a little strange that halfway into fiscal year 2017 we are going to be setting budget levels now,” Sen. Tim Kaine said. (AP photo)

January 05, 2017

Democrat senators are trying to force the GOP to get 60 votes to repeal Obamacare, a tall task for Republicans that only have a two-seat majority in the chamber.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced an amendment to a budget resolution that would thwart Republican plans to repeal the healthcare law via a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. The effort comes as Democrats and Republicans spar over plans to repeal Obamacare but leave it intact for a few years while a replacement is crafted.

The amendment would require any bill that would reduce insurance coverage, increase costs and reduce healthcare plan quality to get 60 votes to be considered in the Senate.

The Senate is considering a budget resolution that sets the spending levels for the next decade. The measure would jumpstart efforts for Republicans to use the procedural move reconciliation to repeal Obamacare. Reconciliation lets a bill be passed via a simple majority vote rather than the 60 needed to break a filibuster.

However, the bill must address budgetary and spending levels. A 2015 reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare gutted the law’s taxes and mandates but left the rest of the law intact. Obama vetoed the bill, but it has given Republicans a roadmap for this year’s repeal effort.

Kaine slammed Republicans for using the budget resolution to repeal Obamacare.

“It’s a little strange that halfway into fiscal year 2017 we are going to be setting budget levels now,” he said on the Senate floor.

The Senate has yet to vote on the amendment. GOP leaders have said they plan to hold a final vote on the budget resolution next week.

The resolution directs House and Senate committees to draft repeal legislation by Jan. 27. It is not clear how much time Republicans will give themselves to create a replacement, with some time-frames floated from two to four years.