WASHINGTON— A Senate vote Thursday night to cripple President Obama's controversial health law faces a sure veto – both parties know that.
But they're each embracing the vote anyway as a way to show the stark divide between Democrats and Republicans as they head into the 2016 elections, including the critical Pennsylvania Senate race.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), facing one of next year's toughest re-election fights, joined 51 other Republicans in passing a bill to eliminate key elements of the Affordable Care Act and stop federal aid to Planned Parenthood. The measure, which needed only a majority rather than the 60 votes usually needed in the Senate, passed 52-47, almost entirely on party lines (every Democrat and two Republicans voted "no.")
Both sides say the split shows why voters should trust them with the White House and control of the Senate next year.
"After losing their plans, losing their doctors, and being forced to pay sky-high deductibles and premiums, Pennsylvanians are bearing the burden of Obamacare's slow-motion collapse," Toomey said in a news release after the vote. "To protect the taxpayers and help Pennsylvanian families, I am pleased to vote to repeal Obamacare."
Democrats, however, hope to use the repeal plan in their own campaigns against Toomey and other vulnerable senators.
Both Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak, two of the three Democrats running to challenge Toomey, pointed to the roughly 430,000 Pennsylvanians who have gained health coverage under the Medicaid expansion included in the law.
"Between his repeated votes to shut down the government and his attempts deny millions of Americans health care, Toomey has put obstructionism and partisan politics above Pennsylvanians," Sestak said in a news release.
McGinty, in a statement, said "Toomey threatens to take families back to the days when they were denied insurance because of lifetime caps or pre-existing conditions." She also blasted the cut to Planned Parenthood, saying the group saves lives across Pennsylvania and the country.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, another Democrat in the race, has also supported the law.
Toomey campaign spokesman Steve Kelly said Friday that "if Sestak and McGinty had their ways, we would have even more expensive government controlled healthcare."
The vote was largely political: the bill has no chance of becoming law while Obama is in office. But it was a reminder of the stakes in the next election, one that neither side seems likely to let voters forget.