Senate rejects Cruz amendment on defunding 'ObamaCare'

Ahead of the vote, Cruz said his amendment would have prohibited funding for the Affordable Care Act until the economy was growing at the “historic" level of at least 3 to 4 percent.

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“The purpose of this amendment is to advance economic growth and to delay funding for ObamaCare until there is economic growth,” Cruz said Wednesday. “At a minimum, ObamaCare should not be funded when our economy is gasping for breath.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the “amendment is equivalent to repeal,” when speaking against Cruz’s amendment.

“This is the 34th time that someone on the Republican side has tried to do away with the Affordable Care Act and it’s failed every time,” Harkin said. “We’ve already made our decisions on that and we’re moving on.

“It’s almost like there is an obsession with some people on the other side of the aisle with tearing down health reform.”

Harkin said that he’d be happy to consider reforms to the Affordable Care Act to make it better, but that Republicans should stop wasting time by trying to repeal the law.

“There is no way to fix this thing,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during debate on the amendment. “It needs to be pulled out by its roots.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it’s a “one-size-fits-all solution” without much flexibility.

“Health insurance is a problem within the United States — there’s no question about that,” Rubio said. “But not everybody needs the same health insurance.”

The Senate bill, negotiated by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), sets the same spending levels as a government-funding measure approved by the House last week. 

But the Senate bill adds three full appropriations measures to the House version. The House bill, H.R. 933, funded Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs programs, while the Senate version adds appropriations for Agriculture, Homeland Security and the Commerce, Justice and Science funds.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has allowed amendment votes to the bill, but says he wants to finish work on the continued spending resolution by the end of the week in order to send it back to the House for a final vote. If the House and Senate do not agree to a measure by March 27, the government could shut down.