President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto any total repeal of his signature legislative accomplishment, has said he would accept the change. It does not directly affect health care.
Republicans conceded in advance their attempt at total repeal would fall short, but they accomplished an objective of forcing rank and file Democrats to take a position on an issue that reverberated in the 2010 campaign and may play a role in 2012.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the vote marked an opportunity for Democrats who voted for the bill last year "to listen to those who have desperately been trying to get your attention."
"To say, yes, maybe my vote for this bill was a mistake, and that we can do better," McConnell said.
Democrats worked to minimize any political repercussions, a concern for a party already acutely aware it must defend 22 seats -- and its shrunken Senate majority -- in the 2012 elections.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Republican repeal movement would "take away a child's right to get health insurance and instead give insurance companies the right to use asthma or diabetes as an excuse to take away that care."
"It would kick kids off their parents' health insurance," Reid said. "It would take away seniors' rights to a free wellness check."
Democrats also countered with the proposed repeal of the law's requirement that businesses, charities, and state and local governments file income tax forms every time they purchase $600 or more in goods.
It was approved 81-17, after Republicans said it had originally been their idea.
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