Pelosi and Barack Obama predicted that Obamacare would become more popular as voters learned more about it. Those predictions were based on the theory that in times of economic distress, Americans would be more supportive of or amenable to big government policies.
That theory has been disproved about as conclusively as any theory can be in the real world, and most of the Democrats who provided the key votes for Obamacare were defeated on Election Day.
Democratic congressional leaders did take note of the unpopularity of their policies when they chose not to pass budget resolutions last spring. Presumably they did so because they would have had a hard time rounding up the votes for the high spending and large deficits that would have ensued.
But had the House and Senate passed a budget resolution, Democrats might have been able to pass their preferred tax policy, raising taxes on high earners, under the budget reconciliation process. So the House vote Thursday night was a delayed consequence of the public's long-apparent rejection of their policies.
Obama told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to "spread the wealth around." November's vote, presaged by more than a year of polls, was, as political scientist James Ceasar has written, "the Great Repudiation" of that policy.
Republicans, having succeeded in holding down tax rates, clearly have a mandate to hack away at spending, and to defund and derail Obamacare, which is at or near new lows in the ABC/Washington Post and Rasmussen polls. And there does seem an opening, as Clinton White House staffer William Galston argues, for a 1986-style tax reform that eliminates tax preferences and cuts tax rates.
How effectively the 112th Congress will respond is unclear. But the outgoing 111th Congress, despite its big Democratic majorities, responded pretty clearly Thursday night.