Washington – Three Democratic Minnesota U.S. House members — Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz — bucked their party leaders on Friday and backed a Republican bill that would allow insurers to keep selling policies that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act.
The legislation would grant a reprieve to Americans, including an estimated 140,000 in Minnesota, who would lose their current insurance policies despite a promise from President Obama that his health care law wouldn't strip away their preferred coverage.
Democrats in moderate districts faced a tough choice with their votes: back legislation that would allow constituents to keep existing insurance plans or rally behind Obama's signature health care policy.
The bill passed the House 261 to 157. Nearly all 39 Democratic supporters hail from districts where voters favored Republican Mitt Romney or where Obama won by a slim margin in the 2012 presidential election.
Admitting that his administration botched the health care rollout, Obama said Thursday that health insurance companies can extend canceled policies by one year even if they don't meet the health law's requirements. The president shouldered the blame for the problems.
Republicans argued Friday's bill, the Keep Your Health Care Plan Act, would uphold Obama's promise to let people keep their current health insurance plans. Many Democrats saw the Republican bill as an effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurers to continue selling plans that aren't compliant with the law.
Democratic Party leaders hoped that Obama's proposed fix would prevent rank-and-file members from crossing the aisle in support of the GOP bill.
But Republicans ratcheted up the pressure as millions of Americans received notice that they won't be able to keep their preferred plans. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House Republicans, targeted Walz and other Democrats in potential swing districts who voted for the law in 2010. The lone Minnesota Democrat to vote against the Affordable Care Act when it passed in 2010, Peterson had already announced plans to support the Republican bill.
Minnesota's House Republicans — Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen — voted with their party on the legislation. Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum opposed the bill.
The bill may have political ramifications but it has likely hit a legislative dead end. The White House issued a veto threat Thursday.
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.