Why One Democrat Will Vote Against the President on Obamacare

Rep. Nick Rayhall

To say West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall is unhappy with the Obamacare rollout would be an understatement.

“Who’s ever at fault down there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should have been gone long ago,” said Rahall. “Heads should have rolled in my opinion.” But when pushed if that includes the President, Rahall took a step back. “He doesn’t write code,” he said.

Rahall is mad at more than just the website crash, and while his frustration of the President doesn’t go nearly as far as impeachment, he is going to vote Friday on a bill that would destabilize Obamacare much farther than the President has so far allowed.

The proposal Rahall supports, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), would allow insurers to continue to sell plans that don’t meet Obamacare’s essential benefits standard to anyone next year. On Thursday, Obama announced that he would only accept a one-year delay for those customers who have had their plans cancelled, if insurers decide to offer their old plans with a notification of what’s available in the federal marketplace. Upton’s plan, House Speaker John Boehner has told Republicans, advances the goal of “shattering the legislative coalition the president has used to force his law on the nation,” according to National Review. Rahall will vote with the Republicans even after House Democrats propose a less stringent plan.

Rahall did vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, but since then has voted with Republicans as the law’s botched implementation hurt his political future. After the Administration announced in July that the employer mandate would be delayed until 2015, Rahall jumped on a bill with 21 other Democrats to delay the individual mandate for one year.

Rahall is in a competitive district: he won with 54% of the vote in 2012, down from 56% in 2010. While the state’s senators are Democratic, albeit more conservative than most, the other two Congressmen are Republicans in deep red districts.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group created by billionaire David Koch, announced last week that they are funding an anti-Obamacare television ad buy in Rahall’s district. Rahall, who is serving his 19th term, alluded to the group’s pressure in his press release announcing his support of the Upton plan.

“The well financed, out-of-state groups willing to exploit the law’s complexity to shamefully profit politically or financially from scaring the heck out of our ill and our elderly only make matters worse,” wrote Rahall.

Rahall’s vote Friday deflates the Obamacare attacks. He can say he stood up to the Administration, voting with the Republican-controlled House to stop Obamacare from cancelling policies. And his move will have no real consequences; the Administration announced Thursday night that it would veto the bill even under the unlikely scenario it passes the Senate.