How to Make the Senate Vote on Full Obamacare Repeal

Tomorrow, the House will vote on a bill to repeal the government takeover of health care.  After it passes, the bill will go over to the Senate.  The conventional wisdom is that it will die there.  But don’t start the funeral parade too soon.  There is way to force a Senate vote on the House repeal bill.

While there aren’t currently 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to force the Senate to vote on the House-passed bill, repeal supporters can still force the Senate to vote on “whether to vote” on the bill.  And that could be enough to keep the bill alive.  

As the Heritage Foundation’s Brian Darling helpfully explains, this would involve two steps:

1. Make sure the bill is held at the Senate desk, as soon as it arrives from the House. Do this by having one Senator object to the second reading of the bill.  Any senator can do this.  It’s necessary in order to prevent the Senate Majority Leader (Harry Reid, D-NV) from referring the bill to committee and thus consigning it to parliamentary oblivion.  (Senate Rule 14.)

2. Next, persuade 16 Senators to sign a cloture petition, which, two days after being filed, will force the full Senate to vote on whether to shut off the repeal opponents’ inevitable filibuster.  (Senate Rule 22.)  

If repeal supporters fail to secure cloture (at first), we would at least have put Senators on record on repeal.    

If, however, repeal supporters prevail on this important procedural vote (it takes 60 votes to win), then the Senate must take up the repeal bill itself.  That would be a huge win, shattering the myth that voting on full repeal was merely a symbolic gesture by the House.

With 60 votes in hand, repeal supporters could theoretically go on to get the bill out of the Senate.  That scenario — in which 13 Democrats vote “yes” on the House-passed bill, joining all 47 Republicans in doing so — is not impossible, though it is certainly improbable right now, given how adamant most of the 53 Senate Democrats have been about clinging to their party’s takeover of health care.

Still, there is hope.  As Darling points out:

If the courts continue to declare parts of Obamacare unconstitutional and the American people continue to despise this law, then the probability of full repeal may go up over time.  At a minimum, Senators have the power to force a vote on full repeal of Obamacare if they have the will to do so.

 Let’s make sure they have that will.  


Dean Clancy is FreedomWorks’ Legislative Counsel and Vice President, Health Care Policy.

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