Senate rejects health care repeal

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday rejected the Republican effort to repeal the 2010 health care law, a vote likely to reverberate politically, as both sides used the debate to make partisan points they see boosting them for 2012 elections.

The final vote was 47-51 on the repeal, which needed 60 votes to pass. The outcome was no surprise, since Democrats control 53 of the Senate's 100 seats, and none supported repeal. But the two days of partisan bickering over the measure underscored how this issue continues to dominate political discussion and is likely to for some time.

The Senate did agree to one change Wednesday, voting 81-17 to repeal a paperwork requirement that business interests found chafing.

The change, which is expected to win approval from the House of Representatives, would erase a requirement that businesses must report to the government purchases of goods or services of more than $600 from single vendors during one year. President Obama singled the provision out for extermination in his State of the Union Address last week.

Other alterations won't come so easily.

In the Senate debate this week, most Democrats aggressively defended the health care act that Obama signed into law 10 months ago.

Under it, nearly everyone will have to get health insurance coverage by 2014 or face a penalty. To help people afford policies, the government will provide subsidies, and consumers will be able to shop in exchanges, or marketplaces, where they can compare rates and coverage.

Republicans had political success in 2010 painting the law as an expensive, unprecedented government intrusion into people's lives. Officials in 27 states agreed and urged the courts to overturn the law.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of Virginia ruled in December that the insurance mandate is unconstitutional, and on Monday, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Florida overturned the entire law. Two other federal judges have upheld the law. The cases are probably headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

At the Capitol, the Republican-dominated House approved repeal last month. Senate GOP leaders saw this week's debate as a momentum-builder.