Congressional Republicans have a message for Democrats suddenly expressing angst about the newly implemented health care law: We told you so.
Even before Thursday's House committee hearing, where contractors responsible for HealthCare.gov site were grilled by lawmakers, Republicans were feeling validated by the apparent flaws of Obamacare.
"Each and every day people are finding out that their premiums are going up, that they can't keep the insurance plan they like. It's a disaster," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. "And that's sort of confirming, I think, some of the key arguments we were making over the past several weeks."
Indeed, Republicans, fresh off a failed campaign to defund and delay the law's implementation, say their worst fears about President Obama's health care law are being realized. This is especially true regarding the individual mandate, which requires uninsured people to enroll in the new health care exchanges or face a penalty. After their initial defund effort failed, Republicans pushed hard for a one-year delay of this provision, predicting that people would be unable to enroll due to technical difficulties that were being whispered about even before Oct. 1.
"The one thing we were really asking for is a delay of the individual mandate … so the American people [would not] be required to sign up on a website for something that they can't even get on the website and sign up for," said Rep. John Fleming, R-La. "So it only made sense to give them a break for a year."
The effort to delay the individual mandate ultimately failed, but Republican fears have proved prescient. Now, with millions of uninsured Americans struggling to navigate a dysfunctional enrollment system, a growing chorus of Democrats is calling for exactly what Republicans asked for weeks ago.
"We have to consider delaying the mandate that is the penalty," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said on MSNBC Thursday.
Blumenthal joins the swelling ranks of congressional Democrats urging Obama to either extend the enrollment period past the March 31 deadline, or delay the penalty for those who do fail to register by that date. The groundswell started on Tuesday with a letter to the White House from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., which asked Obama "to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014."
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is touting legislation to delay the individual mandate by one year.
These Democratic defections are not lost on Republicans, who took the brunt of public blame for an Obamacare-induced government shutdown.
"We are starting to see Democrats flip as this thing—it's a train wreck. It's not working," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chief architect of the GOP's anti-Obamacare effort, told Fox News on Wednesday. "And, in any political fight, when the truth is on your side, you are in a good situation. And here the truth is this thing isn't working."
With the Senate adjourned until next week, the immediate heavy lifting—in terms of oversight and investigation of the health care law's problems—has fallen to the House. And Thursday's hearing was just the beginning. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee next Wednesday, the same day HHS officials are expected to brief House Republicans on the turbulent implementation of Obamacare. Meanwhile, several other committees are preparing to hold health care-related hearings to keep the spotlight on what they have long argued are fatal flaws of the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans insist they take no joy in seeing Americans suffer under the new health care law. But they do take comfort in knowing that voters now realize what they've been fighting against—not just in recent weeks, but since the law was enacted in 2010.
"Now that we're past the date of Oct. 1, Obama and [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, they own this thing," said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who sponsored the original legislation to defund Obamacare. "And all of America knows that it was John Boehner and the House Republicans who did everything they could to protect them from it."
This article appears in the October 25, 2013 edition of NJ Daily.