A Republican-led Senate early Thursday passed a measure to take the first step toward repealing President Barack Obama's health care law.
The nearly party-line 51-48 vote came on a non-binding Republican-backed budget measure that eases the way for action on subsequent repeal legislation as soon as next month.
"We must act quickly to bring relief to the American people," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
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More details on last night's vote
The Senate vote will set up special budget rules that will allow the repeal vote to take place with a simple majority in the 100-member Senate, instead of the 60 votes required to move most legislation, according to the Associated Press.
That means Republicans, who control 52 seats, can push through repeal legislation without Democratic cooperation.
GOP said theyd keep the parts of ACA Americans liked. So whyd they just vote down protections for veterans & ppl w/ pre-existing conditions?— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 12, 2017
We're the only major country not to guarantee health care as a right. Why are we debating whether to take it away from 30 million people?— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 11, 2017
The House is slated to vote on the measure on Friday.
Obamacare extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, prevented insurers from denying coverage for preexisting conditions and steered billions of dollars to states for the Medicaid health program for the poor.
Republicans have fought vigorously to dismantle it.
--The Associated Press contributed to this report.