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By Sean Gorman November 25, 2013

Cuccinelli says Warner cast "the tiebreaking vote" on Obamacare

Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s narrow loss in the Nov. 5 gubernatorial election has spurred talk about whether he’ll challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who’s up for reelection next year.

In a Nov. 18 article in The Washington Post, Cuccinelli said he found the idea of running against Warner "tempting," particularly given the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act,  which Warner helped pass in the Senate.  

"You were the tiebreaking vote," Cuccinelli said of Warner and his support for the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

We wondered whether Warner really did cast the tiebreaking ballot that allowed Obamacare to survive.

Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for Cuccinelli, told us Warner provided the critical vote in 2009 that prevented a Senate filibuster on the ACA.

"(Sixty) votes were needed to avoid a filibuster and allow the legislation to pass, so there was not one vote to spare" Gottstein wrote in an e-mail. "Mark Warner provided that vote."

Gottstein was referring to the Senate’s cloture rule that requires 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.

So let’s return to the filibuster-breaking roll call. No doubt, Warner’s vote was crucial to ending debate, as were ballots of 59 other senators. But does that mean that Warner was "the tiebreaking vote," as Cuccinelli says?

It turns out that Republicans and conservative groups across the country have accused a lot of the Democratic senators of casting the key vote that unchained Obamacare.

PolitiFact national noted in June 2012 the 60 Plus Association ran an ad claiming Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., cast  "the deciding vote" that passed the law. In Ohio’s senate race last year, Republican Josh Mandel said Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown cast "the deciding vote."

In Michigan, Pennsylvania and Missouri, conservatives charged that Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow, Bob Casey and Claire McCaskill, respectively, were each  "the deciding vote."

And let’s not forget New Hampshire, where GOP candidate Jim Rubens said earlier this month that Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was "the deciding vote" to pass Obamacare.

That’s six "deciding votes" even before Warner was added to the list.

Warner’s vote was hardly a mystery in late 2009 as the Senate neared the 60-vote majority to end debate. The Virginia Democrat, in a floor speech that Sept. 23, urged Congress to move forward on health care reforms.

The Los Angeles Times, in a Dec. 24, 2009 article, said the final two holdouts to join the super majority were Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

Our ruling

Cuccinelli said Warner provided "the tiebreaking vote" that allowed Obamacare to become reality. There’s a sliver of truth here in that Warner did indeed provide a crucial vote that helped Democrats get to the 60 votes needed to advance the Affordable Care Act.

But it’s misleading to say he cast "the vote" when Warner was joined by 59 other senators who, by Cuccinelli’s rationale, also would have cast the tie-breaking vote. Warner was not among the last holdouts that boosted the Senate to a super majority; he made his intentions known three months before the vote.

We rate the claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

The Washington Post, "Ken Cuccinelli reflects on losing Virginia governor’s race, talks about what’s next," Nov. 19, 2013.

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. H.R.3590 (111th): Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accessed Nov. 20, 2013.

Sen. Mark Warner, "Recent news on health care," accessed Nov. 20, 2013.

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

Los Angeles Times, "Senate healthcare vote clears way for formal debate to begin," Nov. 22, 2009.

Los Angeles Times, "How Harry Reid shepherded health reform through the Senate," Dec. 24, 2009.

CNN, "Timeline of the health care law," June 17, 2012.

CNN, "Senate Democrats win over key holdouts to reach 60 votes on reform bill," Dec. 19, 2009.

CNN "Senate approves health care reform bill," Dec. 24, 2009.

Reuters, "Timeline: Milestones in Obama’s quest for healthcare reform," March 22, 2010.

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 Florida, "American Crossroads attacks Bill Nelson on health care and Medicare, and that oft-repeated ‘deciding vote,’" Oct. 9. 2012.

The Washington Post, "Deal on health bill is reached," Dec. 20, 2009.

The Washington Post, "Did Mary Landrieu cast the ‘deciding’ vote for Obamacare?" Nov. 22, 2013.

Boston Globe, "Democrats grab final vote for health bill," Dec. 20, 2009.

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