There are a number of ways to look at the Upton vote and the 39 Democrats who abandoned Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to vote with the GOP.
On its face, that number is, if anything, smaller than expected, given the amount of political pressure Democrats are facing from the disastrous rollout of Obamacare. In July, a bill to delay the employer mandate (which Obama had already done unilaterally) received 35 Democratic “yes” votes. This latest bill, with the slow-moving train wreck of the HealthCare.gov rollout and millions of people being thrown off their health-care plans in the background, attracted only four additional Democrats.
However, Democratic leadership took the Upton vote far more seriously than the July vote, which, according to reports at the time, surprised Pelosi and other top Democrats. In this case, President Obama moved to blunt a rising Democratic rebellion with his “administrative fix,” and Pelosi offered an alternative plan for Democrats to vote on as a “motion to recommit.” Both of these maneuvers took some of the pressure off of Democrats and gave them a way to tell voters back home that they were moving to address the problem in ways besides voting for the Upton bill.
Interestingly, seven Democrats who voted to codify the employer-mandate delay voted against the Upton bill (Representatives Gerald Connolly, John Carney, John Delaney, Jim Himes, Ann Kirkpatrick, Derek Kilmer, and Daniel Lipinski).
The eleven Democrats who voted for the Upton bill but had voted against the employer-mandate delay were Representatives Tim Bishop, Jim Costa, Peter DeFazio, John Garamendi, Ann McLane Kuster, Dave Loebsack, Jerry McNerny, Rick Nolan, Carol Shea-Porter, Vela Filemon, and Tim Walz.
Over 40 percent of the large class of freshman Democrats, many of whom are vulnerable politically, voted for the bill — one of the top five breaks between the freshman class and the larger Democratic caucus in this Congress.
Almost 40 percent of the New Democrats voted for the Upton bill as well.
With Pelosi and company pulling out almost all the stops to keep the Upton defection count low, including bringing some of her previous defections back into line, 39 Democrats is a fairly significant showing of political unrest when viewed in context.