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Health-care repeal fails in Senate: What's the next GOP target?

The Senate rejected a bid to repeal Obama's health-care law on a party-line vote Wednesday. The GOP is ratcheting up pressure on potentially vulnerable Senate Democrats in 2012.

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Republicans claimed credit for the vote. Sen. Mike Johanns (R) of Nebraska had proposed a nearly identical measure in the last Congress, which won only 41 votes. As of Tuesday, he had 61 cosponsors for his own bill to repeal the provision. The 81-to-17 vote was “very, very significant,” he said. “We have ratcheted back one of the most egregious [elements] of many in a 2,700 page plan,” he said after the vote.

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GOP's next health-care target

The GOP's next front in the bid to undercut the health-care bill is a measure, introduced Tuesday, that allows states to opt out of major provisions of the new law. These opt-outs include: mandates for individuals to buy health insurance and employers to provide it, as well as federal mandates to expand access to state Medicaid programs, and new federal requirements defining what qualifies as a health plan.

“Our bill takes the fight out of Washington and puts it back in the states,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a cosponsor with Sen. John Barrasso (R) of Wyoming, on Tuesday.

“Medicaid expansion under Obama health care will be devastating to many states, including South Carolina,” he added. “As more states opt out, it will have the effect of repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

To date, 33 governors have written to the White House requesting flexibility in meeting these new health-care mandates.

Congress could prod Supreme Court

In an unrelated move, the Senate Judiciary Committee today held a hearing on whether mandates in the Affordable Care Act – the official name for the health-care law – are constitutional. Citing a ruling on Monday in a US District Court in Florida, chair Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois said: “This is not the first major law that’s been challenged in the courts, even challenged successfully in the lower courts, as to its constitutionality.”

He cited the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Federal Minimum Wage law – all ultimately upheld by the US Supreme Court.

“I think the same thing is going to happen with the Affordable Care Act,” he added at Wednesday’s hearing.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida, up for reelection in 2012, is proposing a resolution to call on the Supreme Court to act quickly on the clarifying the constitutionality of the health-care law.

“The vote to repeal health care is largely symbolic, because the Supreme Court is going to have to be the one to decide this matter,” he said in a statement. “We ought to do the right thing and ask the High Court to rule quickly, so we don’t keep arguing over this for the next several years.”

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