US & Canada

Senate Republicans fail to repeal Obama healthcare law

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, 2 Feb 2011
Image caption Senate Republican Mitch McConnell vowed to continue the fight

Republicans in the US Senate have failed to win enough votes to repeal President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare reform bill, passed in 2010.

The Republicans, with 47 seats in the Democrat-controlled chamber, had conceded beforehand the measure would not pass but wanted to force a vote.

The House of Representatives, led by the Republicans, voted last month to repeal the bill.

The Supreme Court is now likely to have the final say on the healthcare law.

The Republicans said they had wanted a vote in the Senate, even knowing they would lose, to make vulnerable Democrats take a position on an issue that could prove key in the 2012 elections.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell added: "This fight isn't over. We intend to continue the fight to repeal and replace 'Obamacare'."

Before the vote on repeal, the Senate passed by 81 votes to 17 an amendment to the law which should mean less paperwork for business.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this showed his party was "willing to compromise on common-sense fixes".

He went on: "But Democrats will not compromise if it means undoing the progress we've made toward fixing a broken system."

Florida ruling

The president's landmark legislation, passed last March, would provide coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people.

The law would also expand a Medicaid programme for the poor and provide tax credits to make premiums more affordable for the middle class.

Republicans have attacked the reform as costly and job-killing.

Wednesday's Senate vote came two days after a Florida judge struck down the legislation on the grounds that the requirement that Americans purchase health insurance or face penalties violates an individual's rights.

Because mandatory individual insurance is so central to the bill, Judge Roger Vinson struck down the entire act.

The US Department of Justice said it would appeal against the ruling and the case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

Two other federal judges have upheld the reform bill but one judge in Virginia also struck down the individual mandate.

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