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Kaine bid to slow Obamacare repeal fails

The story of a Williamsburg couple's rekindled hopes of starting a family wasn't enough to convince the Senate to go along with Sen. Tim Kaine's call to slow the Republican majority's rush to repeal Obamacare.

Kaine took his Democratic caucus's lead Thursday to insist that Congress had to have a replacement ready to go before repealing or reforming the Affordable Care Act, hoping to amend fast-track legislation to dismantle the controversial health insurance law.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said repeal was a necessary first step, adding that a replacement would be put in place later, piece by piece.

Kaine argued that the GOP measure would take away health insurance from 30 million Americans, including a self-employed woman from Williamsburg who wrote him about the difference Obamacare meant to her and her husband.

"Because we couldn't afford insurance, we decided that we couldn't have children. We couldn't pay a hospital bill," Kaine told his fellow Senators, reading from a copy of her letter.

"Because we can now get insurance as self-employed individuals with subsidies to make it affordable, we are now going to start a family," he read, adding his own take that: "Because of the Affordable Care Act they could start a family."

Hurrying to repeal with the system that provides affordable the insurance coverage that couple, and millions of others, can now get would create chaos in one of the largest sectors of the American economy, Kaine said.

"If we go into the biggest sector of the American economy with a repeal, without any replacement strategy, it's the equivalent of, 'I am now going to jump off a cliff, and I will figure out how to land once I am in midair,'" Kaine said.

It would also undermine a sense of security that buoys millions of parents, he said.

"Not having health insurance, for a parent, is a continuous agitating voice in your mind, an anxiety-creator about what is going to happen to my family if we get sick or get in an accident which is something that happens to virtually every family," he said.

Kaine's amendment would have required a vote of 60 Senators before the body could act on any legislation that would eliminate coverage now provided through the Affordable Care Act, or that would increase the premiums or out-of-pocket costs of insured Americans or that would reduce the benefits private insurers offer.

"Our amendment creates a high hurdle to any legislation that would make America sick again and basically that's what we're trying to do," Kaine said. "If we're going to either strip coverage from people or make health insurance more expensive or reduce the quality of health coverage for Americans that they currently have, we shouldn't make that easy to do."

McConnell, blasting Obamacare as "a failed partisan experiment," said the GOP majority wanted to enact a patient-focused system that works better than Obamacare.

"The American people never bought it and the law never worked the way it was promised," he said, speaking for the fast track bill. "Millions lost their health-care plans and the doctors they were promised they could keep."

Kaine's measure failed on a party-line 48-52 vote.