Senate approves first step in Obamacare repeal drive

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans launched their effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law early Thursday morning, approving a budget blueprint they’ve dubbed the Obamacare “repeal resolution.”

The Senate voted 51-48 along party lines for the measure, which relies on the same budget process used seven years ago to approve the landmark health care law to now attempt to dismantle it.

“This resolution will set the stage for true legislative relief from Obamacare that Americans have long demanded while ensuring a stable transition,” Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi of Wyoming said. “The Obamacare bridge is collapsing and we’re sending in a rescue team.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the most vocal GOP opponents of voting on a repeal bill before coming up with a replacement package, voted against the budget resolution and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein was absent.

Senators were bleary-eyed as they walked quickly to the exits, wrapping up the final vote a little before 1:30 a.m. EST.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who led the late-night fight against a repeal, said the protest could be a sign of things to come as the fight stretches on.

“I think it’s important for this country to know this was not a usual thing, this is a day which lays the groundwork for 30 million people to be thrown off their health insurance,” Sanders said. “And if that happens, many of these people will die.”

“We wanted to say no matter how late, we’re going to stay and fight and represent our constituents — there are so many constituencies who will be hurt by this repeal without a replace,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Democrat senators registered a somewhat subtle, but significant, protest in the Senate as they cast their votes — declaring why they were voting against the repeal, a rare move that rankled Republicans in the chamber.

The House is expected take a swift vote on the resolution, possibly as early as Friday, which will trigger congressional committees to begin crafting a second bill that would roll back major parts of Obamacare.

Though it will be weeks before Congress votes on that bill, Thursday still marked a victory for the Republican Party as it moves toward overhauling the country’s health care system.