President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a Republican bid on Wednesday to repeal his healthcare overhaul, likely leaving the fate of the year-old law up to the federal courts.
On a party-line vote of 51-47, the Senate rejected a Republican measure to rescind the law that aims to provide more than 30 million uninsured Americans with medical coverage while requiring nearly all to be insured or pay a fine. Sixty votes were needed to clear a procedural hurdle against repeal.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scoffed at Republican efforts, saying: "They want to replace patients' rights with insurance companies' power. They want to replace health with sickness. They want to replace the promise of tomorrow with the pain of yesterday."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell countered: "The case against this bill is more compelling every day. Everything we learn tells us it was a bad idea. That it should be repealed and replaced. The courts say so. The American people say so."
The Senate voted two days after a federal judge struck down the 2010 law as unconstitutional, a ruling the Obama administration promptly announced it would appeal.
The Republican-led House of Representatives, in keeping a campaign vow, voted to repeal the healthcare law last month.
Senate rejection of the repeal effort means the law's fate will likely be decided by court challenges and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court, a process that could extend into next year.
A federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled that Congress overstepped its authority in requiring that nearly all Americans obtain insurance or pay a fine.