Health care law protesters (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)Five House Democrats Wednesday bucked their party and voted with Republicans to repeal Obamacare.
The vote, 244 to 185 with no Republicans voting against a repeal, was mostly symbolic, given that House Republicans have orchestrated at least 30 prior votes to fully or partially kill or defund the president's health care law. All passing efforts have died in the Democratic-controlled Senate and Wednesday's legislation will befall the same fate. But the vote did offer politically-vulnerable members a new opportunity to take sides on the president's health care law.
Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre, both of North Carolina, were the only two Democrats to publicly announce prior to Wednesday's vote their plans to side with the Republicans and back a repeal. Both congressmen face difficult re-election bids in districts that have become markedly more Republican following the latest round of redistricting.
Additionally, Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren and Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, both of whom voted to fully repeal the law in 2011, voted the same way Wednesday. Both Democrats are retiring, which frees them from worrying about the electoral ramifications of their decisions.
That leaves one surprise vote for repeal from Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah. Matheson had offered no firm confirmation of his position prior to the vote and did not vote for full repeal in Jan. 2011.
"We must scrap this flawed effort once and for all, start over, and do it right," Matheson said in a statement Wednesday. "The goal we all share is bipartisan reform that ensures access to quality care and addresses continued rising costs that affect every Utah family and small business...It is time for Congress to repeal this law and replace it with new legislation. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, I stand ready to work with both parties to achieve bipartisan, sustainable solutions to meet this challenge."
Matheson said in his statement that he has "voted against the health care bill at every opportunity in the legislative process," though he voted with Democrats in Jan. 2011 to oppose a full repeal.
Matheson, his state's only Democratic congressman, is running for re-election in the newly-drawn 4th District where he faces a significant challenge from national tea party rising star Mia Love, who is seeking to become the first African-American Republican woman in Congress.
Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, recently received an endorsement from Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, and has garnered many additional high-profile supporters eager to see this seat switch parties.