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Washington • Sen. Mike Lee failed Sunday to use a procedural method to force a vote on repealing Obamacare as his fellow Utahn Orrin Hatch pleaded with senators to calm the political squabbles.
Lee, R-Utah, had attempted a vote during debate of a must-pass highway-funding measure that would have led to another showdown over the Affordable Care Act.
Lee and Hatch voted to continue with the effort to repeal Obamacare, but with eight senators missing, it couldn't reach a majority.
The Senate voted 49-43 to proceed to an amendment killing the health care measure, falling shy of the 60-vote threshold required.
It would have been the first time the Senate voted this year to toss the 5-year-old law.
Lee plans to appeal to the chair of the Senate proceedings Monday in another attempt to retry the effort to repeal Obamacare. That vote would take only a majority of senators.
On Sunday, Lee also tried to defund Planned Parenthood. When the chair ruled the vote failed, he appealed the decision but didn't gather enough support to continue. Another plan to require Iran to recognize Israel also went down.
"That Senate leaders blocked votes on amendments to defund Planned Parenthood and require Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist is a disappointment," Lee said. "But the way they did it by disenfranchising the people of Utah on the Senate floor is absolutely unacceptable. Utahns and all Americans deserve to have their voices heard on these questions."
"Tomorrow," Lee added, "begins the work of doing better."
Hatch said it wouldn't be the last time they tried to dump President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislation.
"The fight to repeal Obamacare is not over," Hatch said. "It's regrettable Democrats yet again blocked efforts to repeal and replace this disastrous law."
Meanwhile, Hatch, the longest serving Republican and the president pro tempore of the Senate, castigated some of his colleagues for what he said was overly partisan rhetoric in the upper chamber.
Hatch didn't mention Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas by name, but Hatch's comments followed a Senate floor speech by Cruz where he called Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.
"We now know that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things that he knows are false," Cruz said Friday. "That has consequences for how this body operates."
Hatch said some of the body's younger senators need to learn about the Senate's long history of civility.
"In recent times, the Senate floor has too often become a forum for partisan messaging and ideological grandstanding rather than a setting for serious debate," Hatch said. "It has been misused as a tool to advance personal ambitions, a venue to promote political campaigns, and even a vehicle to enhance fundraising efforts all at the expense of the proper functioning of this body."
Hatch said recent comments again not specifically mentioning Cruz's remarks were a "blatant disregard" of Senate rules.