WASHINGTON - With Republicans openly welcoming a preordained veto, the Senate on Thursday approved legislation aimed at crippling two of their favorite targets: President Obama's health-care law and Planned Parenthood.
With a House rubber stamp expected in days, the bill would be the first to reach Obama's desk demolishing his 2010 health-care overhaul, one of his proudest domestic achievements, and halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Congress has voted dozens of times to repeal or weaken the health law and repeatedly against Planned Parenthood's funding, but until now Democrats thwarted Republicans from shipping the legislation to the White House.
Thursday's vote was a near party-line 52-47.
Republicans said an Obama veto - which the White House has promised - will underscore that a GOP triumph in next year's presidential and congressional elections would mean repeal of a statute they blame for surging medical costs and insurers abandoning some markets. They lack the two-thirds House and Senate majorities needed to override vetoes, assuring that the bill's chief purpose will be for campaign talking points.
"President Obama will have a choice," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). "He can defend a status quo that's failed the middle class by vetoing the bill, or he can work toward a new beginning and better care by signing it."
Republicans blame the bill for surging health-care costs and insurers abandoning some markets. Government officials said this week that health-care spending grew at 5.3 percent in 2014, the steepest climb since Obama took office.
Democrats noted that under the law, millions of people have become insured and said their coverage has improved, with policies now required to insure a wide range of medical services.
"Do they talk to their constituents? Do they meet with them?" Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said of Republicans.
With just a 54-46 edge, Republicans had previously failed to push such legislation through the Senate. This time, they used a special budget procedure that prevents filibusters - delays that take 60 votes to halt - and let them prevail with a simple majority.
Party leaders initially encountered objections from some more moderate Republicans leery of cutting Planned Parenthood's funds and from presidential contenders, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, who threatened to oppose the measure if it wasn't strong enough.