The 236-181 largely party-line vote set the stage for what is likely to amount to no more than a political message, since Democrats who still run the Senate have promised to block efforts to scrap the law and Obama has veto power.
The House action set the rules for a debate next week that will culminate in a simple up-or-down vote on repeal, scheduled for Wednesday. The House will also instruct several committees to come up with more modest replacement health care legislation, a process that could take months even if successful.
Here's the 236-181 roll, which will likely replicate itself when the final up-or-down repeal vote occurs on Wednesday. As a basis for comparison, the final House vote to pass Obamacare was much tighter: 219-212. Of the 34 Democrats who joined every single Republican in voting "no" last March, only 13 of them survived November's red storm. Of those 13, a paltry four sided with the GOP on today's preliminary repeal vote. They were: Dan Boren (OK), Larry Kissell (NC), McIntyre (NC), and Ross (AR).
More importantly, who were the nine Obamacare "no" votes who appear to be lining up against repealing the bill they tried to defeat (in an election year)?
Granted, today's vote was procedural, and some of these votes could change in the next few days. But the rule vote will probably mirror the final tally pretty closely. If you live in a district represented by one of the notorious nine and would like to influence Wednesday's vote, the House switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
Perhaps these nine believe that a single vote in early 2011 won't harm them when they run again in 2012. Perhaps so, but a lot of voters have very long memories, especially on consequential and seminal votes.