More than 90 percent of House Democrats who voted for the Upton bill today are facing tough races in 2014 or are in right-leaning districts, and only two of the 20 Democratic representatives — 95 percent — who won close elections in 2012 opposed the bill. In other words, perhaps unsurprisingly, one could almost precisely predict how Democratic congressmen would vote on the adjustment to Obamacare by their current political position.
Thirty-four of the 39 Democrats who voted for the bill, which will allow insurance companies to renew plans that had previously been canceled, won their most recent election by less than five points, are considered to be in “competitive” races by the Cook Political Report, or are in Republican-leaning or even districts.
Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick, who won her district by just three percentage points, and Massachusetts’ John Tierney, who won by one, are the only two House Democrats coming off narrow election victories who opposed the bill. While Tierney’s race was closer, Kirkpatrick’s vote might put her more at odds with her constituents: According to the Partisan Voting Index, her district, Arizona’s first, is currently R+4.
Seventeen of the Democrats who supported the bill won their recent elections by less than five percentage points, suggesting they must be somewhat worried about reelection (19 Democrats in total won by less than 5 points). Seven Democrats who represent Republican-leaning districts and two in evenly split districts, as measured by the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index, voted for the bill. Eight Democrats who bucked their party’s leadership had sizeable victories in 2012 in left-leaning districts, but are rated as facing competitive reelections in 2014 by Cook. Two Democrats who voted with Upton, Gary Peters of Michigan and Bruce Braley of Iowa, aren’t running for reelection, but are running in competitive Senate races (Cook rates both both Senate seats as “lean Democrat” now).
No Democrat in a Republican-leaning district, as categorized by the Partisan Voting Index, other than Kirkpatrick, voted against the Upton bill, but New York’s Steve Israel, who is head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is in an even district and voted against it. The other two Democratic congressmen in even districts, Illinois’s William Enyart and Oregon’s Kurt Schrader, voted for the bill (Schrader, you might recall, drew attention this week for calling the president’s promise that people could keep plans “grossly misleading”).
Tierney sits in a slightly more comfortable D+4 district, Massachusetts’ sixth, but some of Democratic colleagues in similar districts or bluer still opted to vote for the Upton bill. California’s Julia Brownley (D+4), Illinois’ Brad Schneider (D+8), and New York’s Dan Maffei (D+5) all supported the bill, and won reelection by less than five points in 2012.
What Democrats voted for the Upton bill, despite not having a reason to do so by the above metric? One example: Peter DeFazio of Oregon, despite comfortably winning reelection in 2012 and having a safe seat in 2014, resides in a district that’s only D+2.
For almost every congressional Democrat, the Upton bill seems to have been a question of political positioning vis-à-vis the Affordable Care Act than a policy judgment or an effort to help Americans keep their insurance plans.