GOP: Vulnerable Democrats will back healthcare law repeal vote

House Republicans are predicting several more Democrats will join them Wednesday for the chamber’s second vote to repeal the healthcare law.

Only three Democrats voted for repeal after the GOP took control of the House last year, but Republicans are confident they can add to this number on Wednesday in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law is constitutional. 

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Already, one politically vulnerable Democrat, Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C.), has said he will vote to repeal the healthcare law after opposing the same measure a year ago.

The GOP’s hope is that a strong House vote — and fresh Democratic opposition — will thwart the White House’s effort to boost political support for the law in light of the court ruling, said one House Republican leadership aide.

But Democrats see an opening for their side as well. On Monday, a party campaign committee launched Web ads targeting seven House Republicans ahead of the vote. The videos slammed the GOP members, many in vulnerable seats, for supporting repeal of the law’s more popular provisions.

The ad targeting Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), for example, suggests that by supporting repeal, she is endangering women whose lives have been saved by breast cancer screenings that the law now covers under Medicare.

“Your member of Congress may vote to repeal important healthcare benefits for everyday Americans,” the video states. “Tell Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack: She shouldn’t repeal our benefits if she wants to keep hers.”

Both parties are ready for offense now that the court’s healthcare decision has upended their messaging war.

With the clock ticking toward November, the House’s second repeal vote gives Republicans another chance to yoke the law to the poor economy and blame President Obama for both.

Democrats, meanwhile, are seeking to portray the GOP as myopically focused on healthcare at the expense of the economy and other problems. The office of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a video mocking the vote by using the mantra employed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): “Where are the jobs?”

Wednesday’s vote represents the House’s 31st attempt to kill the law as a whole or in part.

On Monday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after Republicans with this figure, criticizing the GOP for an effort that will go nowhere in the Senate.

“The effort that the Republicans are undertaking on Wednesday [is] the 31st vote to repeal healthcare,” Hoyer said, chuckling, at an event. “And after every vote … not one alternative has been proposed.”

Republicans, however, still have the law’s persistent unpopularity on their side.

Polls have shown that a majority of voters oppose the law, even after the Supreme Court declared it constitutional. And according to a recent Gallup poll, a plurality of Americans (46 percent) said the health law would hurt the economy, while 37 percent said it would help. Seventeen percent expressed no opinion.

The numbers suggest that the issue remains hazardous for Blue Dog Democrats, whose numbers were depleted in 2010 when the GOP used healthcare to sweep into the House majority.

The chamber’s remaining centrist Democrats made themselves scarce in the run-up to Wednesday’s vote.

North Carolina Reps. Mike McIntyre (D) and Kissell have both said they will support repeal. Kissell joined the Blue Dogs earlier this year amid a tough fight for reelection, and both men made headlines recently for declining to endorse Obama.

“I’ve heard from hundreds and hundreds of people from my district about their opposition to the healthcare law,” Kissell recently told The Charlotte Observer. “I voted against it originally and I will vote to repeal it.”

However, when House Republicans originally brought the repeal motion to the floor, Kissell told reporters he wouldn’t support that measure.

“I made a promise and commitment that I would look out for Medicare, and I’m doing that,” he said at the time, according to reports.

But several other Democrats, including Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.) and Mike Ross (Ark.), did not respond to repeated inquiries about how they will vote on Wednesday. Rep. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who is running for the Senate, has not said how he’ll vote after supporting the law and opposing its repeal.

The Democratic leadership is whipping its members against repeal, but aides said Monday they did not have an estimate of how many will vote with Republicans.

The GOP expects no defections from its ranks and is not formally whipping its members, a Republican aide said.

Mike Lillis contributed to this report.

—This post was modified at 10 a.m. A previous version incorrectly stated that Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) voted against the healthcare law and its repeal. Donnelly voted for the initial 2010 healthcare law.