Guy Benson
Roll Call reports (subscription required) that Senate Republicans' first crack at repealing Obamacare could come as early as this afternoon, when GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell offers the House repeal bill as an amendment to Federal Aviation legislation currently under consideration:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plans on Tuesday afternoon to offer the House-passed repeal of the health care law as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration bill that is set for floor consideration, according to Republican sources.

The Kentucky Republican will file the amendment following the GOP’s weekly caucus lunch. Senate Democrats have vowed to block any attempt to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which was signed in March after clearing Congress along party lines.

McConnell could have brought up the House repeal bill as early as last Thursday. His expected action on Tuesday comes one day after a federal district court judge in Florida threw out the law on constitutional grounds.

Moments ago, Harry Reid criticized McConnell's planned move, calling it a distraction from the FAA measure, which he referred to as -- I kid you not -- a "jobs bill."  Reid wouldn't reveal any details about his internal whip count on the soon-to-be offered amendment.  Do Democrats have the votes to kill the amendment?  "Wait and see,"  Reid told reporters.  All 47 Senate Republicans have co-sponsored the repeal measure, including the Maine twins.  The GOP would need four Democratic defectors to adopt McConnell's amendment.  Prime targets: Manchin (WV), Nelson (NE), Webb (VA), Tester (MT), Casey (PA), Pryor (AR). 

For your edification, here's the Senate switchboard number: (202) 224-3121

In the still unlikely event that Reid is unable to hold his caucus together, and the amendment is adopted, Democrats may find themselves in the very awkward position of filibustering (as the majority) a bill they themselves introduced -- after months of caterwauling about the urgent need to reform filibuster rules. 

John Boehner is challenging Reid to allow an up-or-down vote on McConnell's amendment.  If Reid complies and moves for a quick vote, that would be a pretty good indication that he's got his caucus in order.  If not, all hell could be breaking loose behind closed doors among Senate Democrats.  A top Senate source tells me the timing of a possible vote depends entirely on Democratic leadership, and whether they feel comfortable about party discipline.  Majority Whip Dick Durbin has predicted every Democrat will vote against Obamacare repeal, with "one or two" possible exceptions. 

Question: Might Reid/Durbin green-light two of his members (say, Manchin and Nelson) to vote 'yes' on repeal to help save their re-election skins, knowing that the amendment will fail?

UPDATE: At 3:10 pm ET, Sen. McConnell offered his amendment, calling it a chance to revisit a big decision after "all the facts" are in.  Reid has vowed to "get rid of" Republican repeal efforts.


UPDATE II
: Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who is expected to face a tough 2012 challenge, is now introducing an amendment to repeal the unpopular and destructive 1099 tax provision in Obamacare.  Republicans have tried, unsuccessfully, to roll it back on a number of occasions.  Philip Klein shrewdly points out that by taking ownership of the 1099 issue, Democrats allow their members to oppose overall repeal while seeming open to changes. 

Of course, everyone knew how burdensome the 1099 language would be for businesses of all sizes before Obamacare passed last year.  The IRS has even said that it's virtually unenforceable, and members of both parties agree it would grind American commerce to a halt if permitted to stand.  So how did such a loathsome element find its way into the bill in the first place?  Because, on paper, it raised revenue.  And Democrats needed to squeeze every last drop of invented revenue to game the CBO score into claiming Obamacare wouldn't add to the deficit, which was always a total fantasy.

UPDATE III: Stabenow wraps up her introduction of the 1099 repeal by excoriating McConnell's amendment.  In a stroke of creativity, she urges her colleagues not to "roll back the clock and put insurance companies in charge of everything."  Demonizing insurance companies?  How original.  Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) chimes in, calling Republican repeal efforts "possibly the worst idea I've ever heard," and (totally inaccurately) suggests that since its passage, the American people have been gripped with Obamacare fever.  Following in Stabenow's creative footsteps, he employs the groundbreaking strategy of highlighting the plight of a sick child to argue against repealing Obamacare.  He warns that scrapping the law would vitiate its wonderful benefits.

UPDATE IV:  Senate sources say Democrats are spreading the word that a vote will likely be pushed to tomorrow.  This doesn't foreclose the possibility of a vote later this evening, but tomorrow is looking more likely.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography