Democrats Calmer After President’s Obamacare Outreach

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 14: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to workers at ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel company, November 14, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. The President touched on the topics of the economy and health care.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi and Michael Catalini
Add to Briefcase
Elahe Izadi Michael Catalini
Nov. 14, 2013, 2:43 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama might have tem­por­ar­ily de­fused a polit­ic­al powder keg with­in his own party on Thursday, but the Af­ford­able Care Act shows signs of con­tin­ued volat­il­ity, with con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats keep­ing a wary eye on the law’s on­go­ing rol­lout and mulling wheth­er to re­spond le­gis­lat­ively.

White House ad­visers, in­clud­ing Chief of Staff Denis Mc­Donough, de­ployed to Cap­it­ol Hill to al­lay grow­ing Demo­crat­ic fears over the fumbled star­tup of the pres­id­ent’s sig­na­ture ini­ti­at­ive, by and large se­cur­ing sup­port from Demo­crat­ic lead­ers but leav­ing polit­ic­ally vul­ner­able mem­bers in a dif­fi­cult po­s­i­tion.

“The White House has learned a les­son that you shouldn’t over-prom­ise. You need to be able to do what you say and say what you do,” said Rep. Jim Mor­an, D-Va.

Mc­Donough show­cased dozens of small im­prove­ments to Health­Care.gov, the strug­gling web­site for the fed­er­al in­sur­ance ex­change, which helped re­duce ten­sions among many frus­trated House Demo­crats.

Sen­ate Demo­crats emer­ging from a closed-door meet­ing with White House of­fi­cials at the Cap­it­ol fell in­to two cat­egor­ies: lead­er­ship and oth­ers who said le­gis­la­tion to fix the law’s flaws was no longer needed, and those, in­clud­ing red-state Demo­crats like Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisi­ana, who said con­gres­sion­al ac­tion would prob­ably be ne­ces­sary.

“I said the pres­id­ent’s an­nounce­ment this morn­ing was a great first step and we will prob­ably need le­gis­la­tion to make it stick,” said Landrieu, who already has pro­posed le­gis­la­tion to make changes in the health care law.

Ad­ded Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.: “It’s a step in the right dir­ec­tion. We may need to go farther.”

Even if le­gis­la­tion is pur­sued, it would face a rocky road. “There isn’t a bill out there that could pass both the House and the Sen­ate,” a seni­or Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate aide said. “The con­struct­ive fixes have to be done ad­min­is­trat­ively.”

The aide ad­ded: “Are we go­ing to go in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion? Are we go­ing to say we still want le­gis­la­tion? I think that’s still be­ing dis­cussed.”

As­sist­ant Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Dick Durbin, D-Ill., backed the White House’s pro­pos­al, telling re­port­ers after the meet­ing that there’s no need for le­gis­la­tion to fix the law. He also sug­ges­ted he doesn’t be­lieve Re­pub­lic­ans will act in good faith any­way to make any needed changes to the law.

“We have yet to hear the first Re­pub­lic­an in the House or the Sen­ate stand up and say, I’m ready to sit down and talk about con­struct­ive changes in the Af­ford­able Care Act,” Durbin said. “Their goal is clear. De­fund it. Des­troy it.”

House Demo­crat­ic lead­ers de­pic­ted a bill hit­ting the floor Fri­day from Rep. Fred Up­ton, R-Mich., as a step to­ward re­peal­ing Obama­care, and will of­fer a mo­tion to re­com­mit. The Up­ton bill would let people keep their in­sur­ance plans without re­quir­ing the com­pan­ies to ac­tu­ally sell them. “We think our Demo­crats “¦ a large part of them will be against the Up­ton bill,” said House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er, D-Md.

But a num­ber of vul­ner­able House Demo­crats are still un­de­cided or open to vot­ing for the pro­pos­al, such as Rep. Nick Ra­hall of West Vir­gin­ia. Groups are run­ning ads against him in his dis­trict, ty­ing him to Obama’s prom­ise that people who like their plans can keep them.

“I’m con­cerned about my in­teg­rity with voters who have re­turned me here for 38 years,” Ra­hall said. “They know me well enough to know I wouldn’t pur­pose­fully mis­lead them and that I’m an hon­est straight-shoot­er, and al­ways re­flect their val­ues…. I just need to find the an­swers my­self.”

For his part, Obama ac­know­ledged the polit­ic­al trouble he caused Demo­crats, sug­gest­ing just how deeply the law’s im­ple­ment­a­tion may have wounded the party.

“There is no doubt that our fail­ure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a bur­den on Demo­crats, wheth­er they’re run­ning or not, be­cause they stood up and sup­por­ted this ef­fort through thick and thin,” Obama said Thursday. “And I feel deeply re­spons­ible for mak­ing it harder for them rather than easi­er for them to con­tin­ue to pro­mote the core val­ues that I think led them to sup­port this thing in the first place.”

Sam Baker contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
FIRST TIME SINCE ITS CREATION
House Reauthorizes DHS
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.

Source:
OPPONENTS SAY SHE SHOULD RESIGN
AFT’s Weingarten Likens Voucher Support to Segregation
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login