The Senate Republicans failed Sunday to get enough votes to pass an amendment repealing the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as "Obamacare," added to a highway funding bill. The votes fell right along along party lines, 49-43, with eight people not participating, the Hill reported. It needed 60 to be included.
At least three Republican senators -- Maine’s Susan Collins, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse -- accidentally voted against adding the repeal amendment at first. A senior aide for Paul alerted him, and the three changed their votes, Politico reported.
The amendment’s failure came as no surprise to many. On Friday, when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set up the vote, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, called it an essentially useless move. Critics said McConnell only decided to hold the vote to satisfy Republicans against reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, an export credit agency.
“We’ll have a vote on repealing Obamacare. The Republicans will all vote yes, the Democrats will all vote no. It will be at a 60-vote threshold, it will fail,” Cruz said on the floor. “It will be an exercise in meaningless political theater.”
It wasn’t quite game over for the Obamacare repeal amendment, though. Utah Sen. Mike Lee reportedly has plans to resubmit the legislation under a nuclear option that would end up requiring only 51 votes for a repeal.
“Thanks to the sequencing of the votes we just locked in, Republicans will have the opportunity to resurrect that Obamacare amendment later on in the process and put it back before the Senate in a manner that only requires a simple-majority vote,” Lee said in a Friday news release.
Either way, Senate Democrats weren’t happy. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act has no place in a discussion about the highway bill,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “It’s time for Republicans to move on. #ACAworks.”
The six-year, $337-billion highway bill, which could face a final vote later this week, remains in limbo and could face further uncertainty since it is starkly different from a stopgap bill passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives. That bill would extend transportation funding for another five months while a broader compromise is crafted.