N Senate Republicans are expected to achieve two goals on Thursday that have long eluded them — they’ll pass a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood and repeals the Affordable Care Act. The House has managed to vote more than 50 times to repeal all or part of the health care law, but it’s always been tougher in the Senate, where Republicans don’t have the 60 votes needed to pass bills Democrats oppose. This year, they’ll have a special procedure at their disposal to get around that.
But first, let’s make it very clear — nothing that happens on the Senate floor this week will ever actually become law, because any bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act and defunds Planned Parenthood is going to get vetoed by the president.
So, some might ask, what is the value of this exercise?
“The value is to let him know — the president — and others that there’s a big division in this country, and a lot of us don’t like it, and the American people don’t like it,” said Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.
In other words, symbolic votes are important. They give senators a chance to go on the record. They provide fodder for campaign ads later. So, to Republicans, even though there’s a pileup of stuff Congress has to get through in the next couple of weeks — like funding the government, passing a highway bill and extending tax breaks — making Obama veto a bill that undermines his health care law and Planned Parenthood is worth their time.
“The president can’t be shielded by the weighty decision he’ll finally have to make when this measure lands right on his desk,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “When the president picks up his pen, he’ll have a real choice to make.”
It’s a confrontation Republicans have been craving for a long time. They’re using a special process called reconciliation. It’s a budget-related procedure that allows some legislation to get through the Senate with only 51 votes, instead of the usual 60.
Even after a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last week, momentum to defund the organization hasn’t slowed.
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