President Barack Obama’s campaign to transform the U.S. healthcare system hit a legislative brick wall Thursday, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid admitted he no longer had the votes needed to pass the earmark-laden omnibus spending bill that allocated more than $1 billion for implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"This bill . . . would deny us the ability to do what the American people want, which is to repeal and replace" Obamacare, GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said.
So powerful was the grass-roots backlash against the Omnibus bill that all 42 GOP senators united to oppose it.
Stunned by the sudden evaporation of GOP support, a jilted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor Thursday night to announce: “In the last 24 hours [Republican senators] have walked away from me” on the bill.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shot back that Democrats had only themselves to blame. Democrats procrastinated on authorizing the funds until after the midterm elections, McConnell said. Then with a dozen major spending bills in limbo, they rolled them all into one omnibus measure tallying nearly 2,000 pages. The bill’s 6,600 earmarks would have cost more than $8 billion.
“The full Senate didn’t do its job,” McConnell said, “and this is precisely the kind of thing the American people have gotten tired of.”
Reid will meet with McConnell to craft a continuing resolution that will provide enough funds to keep the government operational, while leaving the bulk of 2011 spending decisions for the incoming Congress.
Michael Patrick Leahy, co-founder of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition and author of the upcoming book “The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement,” tells Newsmax the outcome represents an “unqualified victory for the tea party movement.”
Even before national tea party groups issued calls to action to defeat the bill, he says, state-level tea party groups in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Montana, and Texas were melting senators’ phone lines over the bill, he says.
NBC News political analyst Howard Fineman, speaking on MSNBC, said the bill’s demise is a major win for grass-roots conservatives.
“That omnibus bill . . . contained the Obama administration’s and Democrats’ priorities for this coming year’s spending,” Fineman said. “They had to pull it because they couldn’t get the votes. So that all the talk about reading the bill on the [Senate] floor and all that, that’s all out the window for now. The tea party won this round.”
The omnibus reversal marked the third major setback for the president’s healthcare reforms in less than a week.
The first came on Monday, when a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the individual mandate portion of Obamacare is unconstitutional. The administration immediately moved to downplay the significance of that ruling. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to the nation’s governors stating, “We strongly encourage states to continue their planning with respect to exchanges and improvements to the Medicaid program.”
Then on Thursday morning in Florida, in a separate lawsuit that 20 states have joined, another federal judge voiced strong skepticism about the constitutionality of the individual mandate to purchase insurance. Many consider that requirement essential to the overall bill.
Obama administration attorneys argue that their constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce gives the administration the right to impose an IRS fine, which appears to be a tax, if someone opts not to purchase insurance coverage.
Judge Roger Vinson asked the federal attorneys if their authority to regulate purchases that are not occurring – specifically the choice not to buy insurance coverage – also meant the government could “mandate everybody has to buy a certain amount of broccoli?”
Added Vinson: “It would be a giant leap for the Supreme Court to say a decision to buy or not to buy is tantamount to activity."
Most analysts view those remarks as a strong indication that judge will probably strike down portions of the president’s healthcare reforms.
Completing the week’s negative trifecta for Obamacare was the defeat of the omnibus bill, which leaves the cost of implementation squarely in the hands of the incoming, tea-party oriented House.
The spate of recent setbacks may be just a hint of the staunch opposition that awaits the president’s healthcare reforms when the 112th Congress takes office, however. Over 60 of the new GOP members of Congress have signed onto pledges to repeal, defund, and replace Obamacare.
“I think it’s likely to get worse for Obama,” Leahy tells Newsmax. “And that’s good for the country.”
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