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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske January 27, 2014

Gillespie says Obamacare wouldn't have passed without Warner's vote

Republican Ed Gillespie opened his bid for the U.S. Senate this month by dropping responsibility for Obamacare on the toes of incumbent Democrat Mark Warner.

Gillespie -- a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former advisor to President George W. Bush -- announced his candidacy on Jan. 16. Five days later, he launched a web ad featuring 2009 video snippets of Gillespie criticizing Obamacare and Warner defending it.

The screen turns black and these words appear: "Obamacare passed by just one vote in the Senate. It wouldn’t have passed without Mark Warner’s vote."

We explored whether Warner’s vote was essential to passage of the health care package.

Paul Logan, a spokesman for Gillespie, said the claim is based on a vote Warner cast in 2009 to prevent a Senate filibuster on Obamacare.

Under the Senate’s cloture rules, it takes 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to end debate on most types of legislation and allow an up or down vote on the bill. On Dec. 23, 2009, the Senate voted 60-39 to halt debate on Obamacare. Warner joined all of his fellow Democrats and two independents in voting to stop a threatened Republican filibuster.

The next day, the Senate passed Obamacare with an identical 60-39 vote. But Warner’s vote wasn’t as important this time because only a simple majority was required to approve the legislation.

We should note that Warner is hardly the first Democratic senator to be attacked for his or her vote to end the filibuster. Republicans have charged each of at least four other Democrats with casting "the deciding vote." In Virginia last November, then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli claimed Warner cast "the tie-breaking vote" to pass Obamacare.

PolitiFact’s standard ruling on those claims has been Mostly False. We, and our colleagues in  other states, have said it’s misleading to accuse one senator of casting the pivotal ballot when the same could be said of 59 others who voted to end the filibuster.

Our ruling

Gillespie says "Obamacare passed by one vote in the Senate. It wouldn’t have passed without Mark Warner’s vote."

This is an improvement on past Republican efforts to blame Warner for casting the deciding vote to block a filibuster against Obamacare when, in fact, he was joined by 59 colleagues. It casts Warner as part of a collective weight that tipped the scales -- not the final grain of sand.

Warner was one of 60 who voted to block the filibuster -- the bare number required under Senate rules. That allowed the Senate the following day to vote on the Obamacare bill and here’s where Gillespie’s statement comes up a little bit short.

The bill, with Warner’s support, passed by a 60-39 vote. But since it only required a simple majority in the 100-member Senate to approve the legislation, Warner’s vote was not essential this time around. The actual Obamacare bill would have passed with or without him.

So Gillespie’s statement is largely accurate but needs a technical clarification. We rate it Mostly True.


Our Sources

Ed Gillespie, "Who was Right" ad, Jan 21, 2014.  

Interview with Paul Logan, spokesperson for Ed Gillespie, Jan. 24, 2014.

U.S. Senate roll call vote on whether to invoke cloture on the Affordable Care Act, Dec. 23, 2009.

U.S. Senate roll call vote on passing the Affordable Care Act, Dec. 24, 2009.

U.S. Senate, "U.S. Senate roll call votes 111th Congress - 1st session (2009)," accessed Nov. 20, 2013.

PolitiFact, "‘The deciding vote?’ All 60 of them!," June 14, 2012.

PolitiFact Ohio, "Josh Mandel says Sherrod Brown cast the deciding vote for government takeover of health care," May 30, 2012.

PolitiFact New Hampshire, "Jim Rubens claims U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, was the deciding vote to pass Obamacare," Nov. 19. 2013.

PolitiFact Florida, "Was Florida’s Bill Nelson ‘the deciding vote’ on health care law?" June 14, 2012.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Cuccinelli says Warner cast `the tiebreaking vote’ on Obamacare," Nov. 25, 2013.

The Fact Checker, "Did Mary Landrieu cast the `deciding’ vote on Obamacare?" Nov. 22, 2013.

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More by Warren Fiske

Gillespie says Obamacare wouldn't have passed without Warner's vote

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