In a vote where Democratic leaders scrambled to minimize party defections, the House on Friday approved a Republican bill that would block the cancellation of insurance plans that don't meet the Obamacare standards.
The Keep Your Health Plan bill passed 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats ending up joining most Republicans in approving the measure.
Senior House Democratic aides already conceded that dozens of Democrats would side with Republicans in favor of the measure. Many rank-and-file lawmakers have been feeling intense pressure to display some response to the troubled roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.
But even as they conceding some defections, one senior Democratic aide told National Journal before the vote that "more than 50 would be a nightmare" in terms of the political optics of having so many Democrats split from President Obama.
The administration on Thursday had even issued a veto threat against the bill.
To help give some of those Democrats another vote they could point to, Democrats tried but were defeated in a procedural move to offer a bill with elements of legislation sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., which would also address existing plans. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., described the Democratic alternative as "not a step to unravel" the Affordable Care Act, "but a step to improve it."
On Thursday, Obama announced that he would allow insurers to continue offering individual plans for another year, even if they do not meet the minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act.