WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim DeMint planned to introduce a bill on Wednesday that he said will serve as the main Senate Republican legislative vehicle for repealing Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
DeMint, a Greenville, S.C., Republican elected to his second term in November, said 31 of the Senate’s 47 GOP members had signed on as cosponsors of his measure, and that he expected more to add their names.
"There is just strong unity in the Republican Party that we need to repeal this and start over with the right ideas," DeMint told McClatchy on Tuesday. "We just need to remind people that more and more economists are saying this is a fiscally dangerous law."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a military lawyer, was on Air Force Reserve duty in Afghanistan and had not cosponsored DeMint’s bill by Tuesday evening.
Kevin Bishop, a Graham spokesman, said the Seneca Republican would “very, very likely” sign on to the DeMint legislation.
Graham planned to introduce a narrower measure next week with Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, that would authorize states to opt out of the new federal mandates requiring all but the smallest firms to provide medical insurance to their employees.
“We are committed to repealing ObamaCare, and I appreciate Jim’s hard work on this effort,” Graham said. “Whether it’s an outright repeal, a state-based opt-out, delaying implementation of its major provisions or withholding funding, we will use every tool to repeal and replace ObamaCare.”
DeMint’s said his bill will be similar to repeal legislation the House passed last week by a 245-189 vote, with three Democrats joining all 242 Republicans in supporting the law’s annulment.
“Republicans are standing with the American people, who are demanding we repeal this government takeover of health care,” DeMint said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said last week he wouldn’t permit the Senate to take up any repeal measure.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted Tuesday that he will force a Senate vote on overturning the major legislative achievement of Obama’s first two years in office.
“In the Senate, it’s difficult to deny a vote,” McConnell told reporters. “If (Democrats) choose not to have it in a voluntary way, we will have it, I assure you.”
Even Republicans succeed in forcing a repeal vote, they face an uphill struggle to Senate passage. With 47 seats now in GOP hands, at least four Democratic senators would have to vote to repeal the health care law.
In the Senate’s 60-39 passage of the original health insurance measure in December 2009, all 60 Democrats voted for it. The party lost seven seats last November and now controls 53 posts.
Obama, who defended the law to extend medical benefits to millions of uninsured Americans in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, has vowed to veto any bill overturning it that emerges from Congress.
Republicans do not have enough votes in either the House or the Senate to reach the two-thirds constitutional requirement – 290 in the House and 67 in the Senate -- for overriding a presidential veto.
Republicans, though, are pursuing repeal votes in Congress as part of a multi-prong attack on the law that also includes court challenges by GOP governors and attorneys general.
South Carolina is among 25 states that have joined Florida’s lawsuit against the health insurance law.
A federal judge in Virginia last month ruled that the requirement for Americans to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional, but other judges have upheld the law. The case is expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
DeMint gained national attention in July 2009 when he urged prominent conservative activists to block Obama’s bid to give all Americans medical coverage.
“If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo,” DeMint said then. “It will break him.”
Reading DeMint’s quote aloud verbatim a few days later, Obama upbraided him for having tried to make their policy differences personal.
“This isn’t about me,” Obama said. “This isn’t about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America’s families, breaking America’s businesses and breaking America’s economy.”