Caution on the part of GOP elders was overwhelmed by tea party-aligned lawmakers, who were in turn responding to the urgings of outside groups and their allies in the Senate, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah among them.
The vote in the House was almost completely along party lines, and the administration threatened in advance to veto the bill if it should pass the Senate as well. Among Democrats, only Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah supported the measure. Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell was the only Republican voting against it.
The Republican rally in the Capitol afterward was unusual for its overtly political tone.
"You know, many Senate Republicans have promised to leave no stone unturned fighting for this bill, and all of us here support that effort. We're calling on Senate Democrats to do the same thing," said Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who then asked how four Democrats who face re-election in swing states next year will be voting. Among the four, Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana all voted for the law when it passed Congress, and none has indicated a vote for nullification.
Instead, the likelihood is that the Senate will strip off the provision to defund the health care law, as well a different section that prioritizes debt payments in the event the Treasury lacks the funds to meet all its obligations. Reid and other Democrats then plan to send back to the House a bill whose sole purpose would be to prevent any interruption in government services on Oct. 1.
The next move would be up to Boehner and his famously fractious rank and file. Unless they decide to surrender quickly, they could respond with yet another attack on the health care law, perhaps a one-year delay in the requirement for individuals to purchase insurance. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky backs legislation to that effect, and Obama has already announced a one-year postponement in a requirement for businesses to provide coverage to their employees.