In a completely non-surprising 47 to 51 vote, the Senate killed the Republican-led effort to repeal President Obama's health care reform law yesterday. This leaves the responsibility of deciding the fate of the legislation to the US Supreme Court.
Moments earlier, the Senate had agreed to make one relatively minor change in the law, voting to strip out a paperwork requirement for businesses.
President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto any total repeal of his signature legislative accomplishment, has said he would accept the change. It does not directly affect health care.
Republicans conceded in advance their attempt at total repeal would fall short. But they also said they had accomplished an objective of forcing rank and file Democrats to take a position on an issue that reverberated in the 2010 campaign and may play a role in 2012.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the vote marked an opportunity for Democrats who voted for the bill last year "to listen to those who have desperately been trying to get your attention."
"To say, yes, maybe my vote for this bill was a mistake, and that we can do better," McConnell said.
Democrats worked to minimize any political repercussions, a concern for a party already acutely aware it must defend 23 seats – and its shrunken Senate majority – in the 2012 elections.