Both U.S. senators from New Mexico voted this week against the first steps the Senate took to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
The Senate vote, held Thursday during early morning hours, changed procedural rules to allow majority votes on so-called reconciliation bills. Such reconciliation bills are limited to actions on the federal budget and are filibuster-proof, meaning they just need 51 votes from senators to pass instead of the usual 60 votes.
Republicans plan to use this reconciliation process to repeal as much of the ACA as they can.
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats of New Mexico, publicly denounced the vote to approve the reconciliation process, which ultimately passed on a 51-48 vote.
Speaking on the senate floor, Udall criticized Republicans for not having a replacement plan in place for ACA. He dismissed the plan as “repeal and chaos.”
“They don’t have any plan for people like Kevin from Albuquerque, who told me that his daughter Amber’s life depends on the ACA, because it prevents insurance companies from canceling your coverage due to a preexisting condition,” Udall said. “They don’t have a plan for Pam from Placitas and her husband, Mike, who discovered an aggressive kind of cancer early because of his ACA insurance policy. Pam says there’s no question the ACA saved Mike’s life.”
Heinrich shared the way he voted on Twitter:
I voted NO – against R’s first step in striping Americans of coverage & throwing health system into chaos. #SaveACAhttps://t.co/mBgpmuPkku
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) January 12, 2017
Both senators also co-sponsored an unsuccessful amendment with other Democrats that would have prevented the senate from passing bills that would increase the number of uninsured in the country.
The federal Health and Human Services Department estimates roughly 20 million people have gained health insurance since 2010 under the ACA, mostly from the law’s expansion of Medicaid. The same federal agency estimates that the law has prompted 178,000 previously uninsured New Mexicans to receive coverage in New Mexico.
Yet the ACA has seen its share of controversies, most recently rising premium costs in health care plans on federal and state-run health exchange markets.
President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in the GOP-controlled U.S. Congress are making repeal of ACA a top priority this year.