The Senate voted down a single-payer health care amendment introduced by Republican Senator Steve Daines on Thursday, in a political gambit aimed at putting Senate Democrats on the record on a divisive issue. The amendment failed to pass after no lawmakers from either party voted for it. Fifty-seven Senators voted against the amendment, while 43 voted simply “present.” Four Democrats voted against the amendment: Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana.
Daines’s amendment was far from a true test of Democratic support for single payer, however. Senator Bernie Sanders, the most popular progressive politician in the United States who supports a single-payer health-care system, denounced the amendment as a “political trick” designed “to embarrass Democrats,” ahead of the vote. His office had previously announced that even he would not be voting for it, giving Senate Democrats cover to reject the amendment as a political ploy.
The Senate is currently debating legislation rolling back, at least in part, the Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans are facing immense pressure to pass something after years of promising conservative voters they would repeal the law, but have so far faced setbacks and delays amid internal divisions over how far to go in dismantling former President Obama’s signature health-care law. Democrats, meanwhile, have been united in opposing repeal. Attacking Democrats over single payer, a long-time liberal dream that critics say would be too costly to implement, was one way for Republicans to try and change the subject.