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House Democrats Refuse To Revolt Over Obamacare

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WASHINGTON -- A Democratic revolt over Obamacare failed to materialize Friday as the House of Representatives passed a measure to let insurance companies offer plans that don't meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act.

The measure, the Keep Your Health Care Act, passed 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats joining Republicans. That's only a handful more Democrats than defected on a number of votes during the recent government shutdown, although it was significantly more than the two who backed the GOP effort to defund Obamacare back in September.

"Most of the pundits were predicting that we were going to lose a huge number of members, and we're not," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the head of the Democratic National Committee, told The Huffington Post. "Democrats believe we should move forward and fully implement the Affordable Care Act."

Still, the abysmal initial rollout of the law has left many Democrats fuming.

"I am frustrated and angered by the continuing problems with the health care website, and I know southern Arizonans are frustrated and angry too," said Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), who voted with Republicans.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who declared the law's start deserved a grade of "F-minus," told reporters during the vote that many Democrats have been furious at the White House in closed-door meetings -- and that more would go public if there continues to be a lack of progress.

"I'm not sure they could scream any harder or any louder than some of these caucuses and in some of the private meetings with the administration -- that will continue," Rahall said. But, he added, if the law's implementation does not improve, "Yeah, there are probably more [who will] join the fray."

Wasserman Schultz countered that she expects Democrats to stay relatively united because they overwhelmingly support the larger goal. The party should be willing to take some bumps and bruises to get where they are going, she said.

"This is a big change. Whenever you have a big change like this, we recognize as Democrats that it's going to take some time to answer people's questions," Wasserman Schultz said. "This is not like flipping on a light switch and it's as simple as that. Changing the way we cover people in the health care delivery system has a lot of moving parts to it, so there are going to be bumps along the way."

Wasserman Schultz predicted that like Medicare and Social Security before it, the Affordable Care Act will only get more popular as people benefit from the law. She said Democrats will not back down from trying to make that happen.

"This is something that Democrats believe in. We've been trying for 100 years to make sure that we have a system that allows everybody to have access to quality, affordable health care. We're committed to it, Republicans are not," she said.

In a sign that Democratic leaders are not too worried that the GOP bill will succeed, Rahall said he has not been pushed to vote with his party.

"They've not been overbearing on this issue," Rahall said.

The reason Democrats aren't worried is because leaders in the Democratic-controlled Senate have shown no signs that they would be willing to bring up the House bill -- and even if they did, it would take 60 votes there to pass. Some supporters of a measure in the Senate offered by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would grandfather into law existing insurance plans that don't meet the requirement of the law have said they would like to see some measure related to the issue advance. But many more have said they want to see how Obama's effort to ease problems with the implementation works out first.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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