SENATE KILLS HEALTH CARE REPEAL EFFORT…. We knew a month ago exactly how this would play out. The Republican majority in the House would vote to repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act; the measure would move to the Senate where it would die.

And wouldn’t you know it, all the relevant players went through the motions, and the Kabuki dance came to a predictable end late yesterday afternoon.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday defeated a bid by Republicans to repeal last year’s sweeping health care overhaul, as they successfully mounted a party-line defense of President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

Challenges to the law will continue, however, on Capitol Hill and in the courts, with the United States Supreme Court ultimately expected to decide if the law is constitutional.

The only meaningful question was whether any members would break party ranks. None did — Republicans needed 60 votes, and came up with 47, all from the GOP caucus.

What we’re left with is a wasted month in which Republicans, instead of working on meaningful legislation or efforts to improve the economy, made their party’s base feel good about itself. Had the repeal measure passed the consequences would have been severe — higher deficits, higher taxes on small businesses, higher costs for consumers, higher rates of uninsured — but Republicans did it anyway, in large part because they had the luxury of consequence-free posturing. They knew from the outset that families wouldn’t actually suffer from this stunt because the crusade would inevitably fail.

GOP lawmakers, in other words, had the best of both worlds — they could try to gut the system and screw over millions (which makes the base happy), knowing all the while that they were only putting on a show (which makes families who need the benefits happy). It was a ridiculous charade, an insult to the political process, and a reminder that the GOP is in desperate need of grown-ups, but in the end, the stunt served its intended, shallow purposes.

This little vanity exercise was also a reminder of just how little seriousness Republicans bring to their policy work. Like their House counterparts, the Senate GOP spent the day making up numbers, condemning the CBO, and repeating long-discredited attacks, but what they never got around to doing was explaining how they might want to improve the old, dysfunctional health care system. Not one Republican lawmaker this month has spent time presenting a credible alternative or talking about how they might try to help people who need it.

They love tearing down; they loathe building up.

With yesterday’s vote, every Republican in the Senate effectively told American families, “We’ll gut the health care system now, and maybe figure something else out later. In the meantime, good luck — and don’t get sick.” Those who find this compelling probably aren’t paying close enough attention.

Repeal would have real-world consequences that would hurt millions of families. Seniors would pay more for prescription medication. Children with pre-existing conditions would lose their protections. Young adults would be kicked off their family’s plan. Small businesses would lose their tax breaks. Untold numbers of Americans would lose their homes, savings, businesses, and quite possibly their lives, simply because they got sick.

Fortunately, the legislative repeal effort failed yesterday. Good riddance.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.