WASHINGTON — The botched rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health care law has driven a wedge between the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill.
More than three dozen House Democrats voted Friday to pass a GOP-backed change to the law that the administration warned would only make matters worse.
Iowa: Democrats Bruce Braley and David Loebsack voted yes, as did Republicans Steve King and Tom Latham.
Nebraska: Republicans Jeff Fortenberry, Adrian Smith and Lee Terry all voted yes.
Unhappy with Obama's inability to resolve the website enrollment problems and increasingly worried about the 2014 election, a small but steady number of Democratic lawmakers are distancing themselves from a president they once enthusiastically supported on the health care issue.
Friday's House vote was the latest display of Democratic anxiety. Thirty-nine Democrats joined Republicans in a 261-157 vote to approve legislation, offered by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would allow insurers to continue selling individual policies that don't meet new federal standards under the Affordable Care Act.
A similar Democratic revolt is underway in the Senate, pushing already rocky relations between Obama and congressional Democrats to a new low.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, among the most endangered Democrats up for re-election next year, vowed to press forward with her bill to remedy the policy cancellation problem.
The House vote came shortly before the president welcomed insurance company CEOs to a White House meeting.
In brief opening remarks, he did not refer to the House vote.
A day after they were caught off-guard by Obama's proposal to prevent cancellation of insurance policies for millions of Americans, top executives of some of the biggest insurance companies emerged from Friday's meeting expressing mixed feelings about whether the idea could work in every state.
Obama met with the chief executives for more than an hour in a session that insurers said was wide-ranging.
The insurers, many of whom expressed anger that the president had not consulted them before Thursday's announcement, said they had come away from the meeting willing to work with the White House on the cancellation issue and still protect the financial viability of the new insurance marketplaces.
They did not discuss in detail how the president's goal might be achieved.
Friday's Democratic defections, which the White House and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., worked to limit, reflected dissatisfaction among the lawmakers with the administration's proposed fix. That plan would give insurance companies federal permission to renew the canceled policies that don't meet new federal standards for one year, but many lawmakers prefer a legislative fix.
Democratic leaders cornered wavering lawmakers Friday in the House after a tumultuous week of White House officials making repeated trips to Capitol Hill to tamp down discord.
“I'm just sending a message by my vote to my constituents back home that I'm going to take whatever action I can take as a member of Congress to fix the problems that have been created, unfortunately, in the law,” said Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., who voted in favor of the Upton bill.
Facing a midterm election in which support for Obamacare will be used in GOP attacks, an insistent group of moderate Democrats is staking out a more independent path.
Many of these Democrats are freshmen, running for their first re-election, or veteran lawmakers who know what it takes to run a tough campaign in the few remaining politically mixed parts of the country.
Defections by House Democrats included not just lawmakers like Barber who represent swing or GOP-leaning districts. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, a candidate for an open Senate seat next year, also voted for the bill.
Democratic leaders were pleased that the tally was not more damaging for the president. The 39 votes for the GOP plan were on par with the results from other votes this year on Republican bills to undo Obamacare.
The Upton bill and the president's administrative fix were crafted to respond to the millions of cancellation notices being sent to customers in the individual insurance market, despite promises that Americans would be allowed to keep their plans if they wanted. The Affordable Care Act had originally grandfathered in policies in effect in 2010, when it was passed, but changes made later narrowed that provision.
The GOP-controlled House was always expected to approve the Upton bill, which Republicans called the first step in a campaign to kill the Affordable Care Act.
It was unlikely that the Senate would pass a similar bill. Obama has vowed a veto if one passed.
The open display of Democratic disunity has jolted a party that has been largely able to keep its internal divisions at bay in recent months as the civil war within the Republican Party grew. But with the president's approval rating at or near all-time lows, Democrats are searching for ways to inoculate themselves against “Obama fatigue” next year.
This article includes material from the New York Times.