The U.S. Senate voted 52-48 Thursday against providing funding for Planned Parenthood, less than a week after a deadly attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The amendment, part of a legislative effort to gut the Affordable Care Act -- President Barack Obama’s signature health care law -- will almost certainly be vetoed when the bill ends up in the Oval Office.
Because Republicans in Congress do not have enough votes to muster the two-thirds majority vote necessary to override that presidential veto, all of the votes associated with repealing the Affordable Care Act are almost purely symbolic. Just as Democrats planned to bring amendments to the floor Thursday that would require Republicans to vote on gun control measures, the Planned Parenthood vote is mainly a way for senators to put their opinion on the public record and draw contrasts between the two parties.
The bill would undermine Obamacare by eliminating fines for individuals who fail to buy healt insurance as mandated and employers with more than 50 workers who, under the Affordable Care Act, must provide health insurance. It would also eliminate subsidies for low-income Americans and block the expansion of Medicaid. The president has made clear from day one that he would veto any attempt to undo the ACA -- even without the addition of the Planned Parenthood funding revocation.
“The value is to let him know — the president — and others that there's a big division in this country, and a lot of us don't like it, and the American people don't like it,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told NPR before the vote took place.
The votes require lawmakers to take a clear stance on issues that are very divisive in American politics, and will likely be used on the 2016 campaign trail as Democrats fight to regain control of the Senate from Republicans. The GOP seized control of the Senate during the 2014 midterm elections when Republicans took seven Senate seats that were previously held by Democrats. Republicans had a favorable Senate race map during that election, but are expected to encounter a much more difficult challenge in 2016, when the majority of the so-called competitive Senate seats are in states that Obama won when he was running for president.