Republican lawmakers in the US Senate have taken the first step to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature health insurance program by passing a new budget resolution.
The measure was passed by a 51-48 vote on Wednesday in the upper chamber of Congress. The resolution allows Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with a plan of their own.
The bill now awaits approval by the House of Representatives, before Republicans can send the final bill to President-elect Donald Trump’s desk after his January 20 inauguration.
“The Senate just took an important step toward repealing and replacing Obamacare by passing the resolution that provides the legislative tools necessary to actually repeal this failed law while we move ahead with smarter health care policies,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, once the main supporters of the
Republicans criticize Obamacare as an excessive government intrusion into the healthcare market and contend it is harming economic growth by burdening businesses. They say they have a plan to replace it but have offered few details.
“(We) place our faith in the fact that we're going to do this in a manner that works well for the American people,” Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said.
The only Republican to oppose the measure was Senator Rand Paul, who in a tweet called for a replacement.
“As we repeal Obamacare, we would be wise to vote on its replacement at the same time,” he said prior to the vote.
The passing of the measure was faced with strong opposition from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
“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,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren were among the numerous Democrats who tried to prevent the bill’s passing.
According the non-partisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, about 52 million Americans under the age of 65 might lose their insurance if Obamacare is not replaced with a viable alternative.
Trump said in a press briefing on Wednesday that his administration would soon introduce a plan that will “get health care taken care of in this country.”