The House's planned vote Wednesday to fully repeal Obamacare ultimately amounts to little more than political theater, given that House Republicans have made 30 previous attempts to repeal all or part of the law, all of which have gone nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But this week's vote does offer several politically vulnerable members a new chance to distinguish themselves on this hot-button issue.
Ahead of Wednesday's vote, at least two House Democrats have indicated plans to side with a majority of Republicans to reject portions of the law. Both face uncertain re-election odds.
The first to publicly confirm his vote for repeal was Democratic Rep. Larry Kissel of North Carolina.
"I voted against it originally and I will vote to repeal it," he first told the Charlotte Observer last week. Kissell voted against the health care law when it won overall passage in 2009. He did not vote for repeal in 2011.
Kissell faces a very tough re-election race in the 8th District, which became significantly more Republican this cycle following redistricting changes. Kissell is no stranger to bucking his party. He recently joined 16 Democratic colleagues in voting against the majority of their party to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Kissell said he doesn't plan to endorse the president's re-election campaign this year.
In addition to Kissell, Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre, also of North Carolina, confirmed he will vote for repeal this week. McIntyre's position is unsurprising for several reasons: He was one of just three Democrats to vote for repeal in January of 2011 and he represents a conservative constituency in the 7th District made more so by redistricting this cycle. Like Kissell, McIntyre also refuses to publicly endorse the president.
The other two Democrats who voted for repeal in 2011—Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren and Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross—are retiring, which frees them from worrying about the electoral ramifications of their vote Wednesday. Other Democrats are remaining tight-lipped as the Democrats whip for strong across-the-board support.
Wednesday's vote is to repeal the law in its entirety—a direct response to the Supreme Court's decision last month to uphold the individual mandate as a tax.
Public opinion polls show no significant support for repealing the law in its entirety and cast doubt on exactly how much impact a congressman's vote for repeal would have on voting decisions.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday (pdf) found that Americans are currently evenly divided—47 percent to 47 percent—in their support and opposition for the law following the Supreme Court ruling. And just 18 percent of respondents expressed support for full repeal.
Respondents divided evenly—28-28 percent—on whether they'd be more likely to support or oppose a congressional candidate who backs the health care reform law. Forty-one percent said the candidate's position wouldn't make a difference.
But regardless of immediate voter reaction, Wednesday's vote provides instant fodder for candidates' opponents. A Democrat such as Kissell, who is fighting for conservative support, is conscious that he is unlikely to win new conservative votes if ads touting his support for Obamacare are blasted across the local airwaves.
Republicans have not publicly expressed concern about members of their party breaking to oppose repeal. In January of 2011, all voting House Republicans voted for repeal of the law in its entirety.