Last March, 34 House Democrats joined all 178 Republican in voting against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. This year, the new GOP majority is eager to tout meaningful bipartisan support for its efforts to repeal the bill (debate begins today, a vote is scheduled for Wednesday). They are likely to be left wanting.
One obvious reason is that there are simply less Democratic votes to go around. Of the 34 Democrats who opposed final passage of the health care bill, only 13 survived the midterm elections in November, which saw the conservative Blue Dog coalition reduced by more than half. Many lost despite aggressive efforts to distance themselves from their own party. Conservative Rep. Gene Taylor (D., Miss.), for example, had signed a GOP pledge to repeal health care reform, but was still defeated at the polls by Republican Steven Palazzo.
As of last week (before the tragedy in Tucson), only two of those remaining 13 — Reps. Dan Boren (D., Okla.) and Mike Ross (D., Ark.) — have said they plan to back repeal.
Eight others — Reps. Heath Schuler (D., N.C.), Larry Kissell (D., N.C.), Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.), Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Collin Peterson (D., Minn), Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.) and Jim Matheson (D., Utah) – have said they intend to vote no.
Reps. Ben Chandler (D., Ky.), John Barrow (D., Ga.) and Mike McIntyre (D., N.C.) have yet to weigh in, though McIntyre did say shortly after the law was passed in March that he would support its repeal.
So why would any lawmaker, from either party, want to keep a law they voted against? The rationale has been fairly consistent: They don’t like the bill as a whole, but don’t want to do away with provisions of the bill they do like, namely the ones that are politically popular, such as allowing young individuals to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26, closing the ‘donut hole’ for seniors, and prohibiting insurance companies to deny children with pre-existing conditions.
James Valvo, director of government affairs at Americans For Prosperity, doesn’t buy it. He says that these Democrats were validating the conventional wisdom among conservatives — that most Democrats who voted against health care reform did so purely out of political necessity, as opposed to personal conviction, and with the tacit approval of party leadership. Now their true colors were coming to light.
“It’s really disingenuous,” he says of their arguments against repeal. “Republicans favor these [popular] provisions too, that’s not what we’re talking about. They’re trying to have their cake and eat it too.” In fact, Republicans plan to introduce a follow-up resolution to repeal that would instruct House committees to redraft health care legislation that would likely include many of these provisions.
Even though repeal is sure to pass in the GOP-majority House, the law’s opponents would certainly like to see as many Democrats as possible cross the aisle. A coalition of conservative groups led by DeFundIt.org, sent out a letter on January 5 week urging those 13 Democrats to make good on their opposition to the health care bill by supporting repeal. “Your vote on H.R. 1 will once and for all confirm to the American people where you stand. If you are really against Obamacare, then you will vote yea for repeal,” the letter states.
Alex Cortes, chairman of DeFundIt.org, tells National Review Online that any Democrat who opposed the original bill and didn’t vote to repeal it, would be engaging in “the heart of dishonesty” and warned that any politician who opposed repeal did so at their own peril because “the American people are on our side.”