Democrats Are Starting to Freak Out About Obamacare

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers speaks at the 2013 Tribal Nations Conference held at the Department of Interior Building on November 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama meet with leaders of 566 Native American tribes earlier in the day at teh White House.
National Journal
Elahe Izad Sam Baker
Nov. 13, 2013, 5 p.m.

Con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats are quickly los­ing pa­tience with the White House as the deeply flawed Obama­care rol­lout drags on.

The broken Health­Care.gov web­site and Pres­id­ent Obama’s broken prom­ise that “if you like the plan you have, you can keep it” have sent Demo­crats search­ing for ways to dis­tance them­selves from the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Sen­ate Demo­crats are flock­ing to in­tro­duce bills they say would pre­serve Obama’s pledge, and White House of­fi­cials met with House Demo­crats on Wed­nes­day in an ef­fort to push them away from sup­port­ing a sim­il­ar Re­pub­lic­an meas­ure.

The Demo­crats’ re­sponse: If you don’t want us to vote for the GOP bill, give us something else to sup­port — be­fore Fri­day’s vote.

That’s a tall or­der for the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Obama said last week that he had dir­ec­ted his team to look for a way to ad­dress the wave of can­cel­la­tion no­tices hit­ting con­sumers in the in­di­vidu­al in­sur­ance mar­ket. But no solu­tion has been an­nounced, and policy ex­perts say there aren’t any easy op­tions.

The House bill, sponsored by En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Fred Up­ton, R-Mich., would al­low con­sumers to keep cer­tain health care plans longer than they can un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

A policy ana­lys­is from the lib­er­al Cen­ter on Budget and Policy Pri­or­it­ies said the bill would un­der­mine the health care law, not help it. But in the midst of such bad pub­li­city, that con­cern hasn’t res­on­ated with rank-and-file Demo­crats who feel boxed in by Obama.

“We wer­en’t mak­ing gran­di­ose claims. He doesn’t have to run again, I don’t know why he needs to make such gran­di­ose claims. Some of this stuff is just gra­tu­it­ous rhet­or­ic,” Rep. Jim Mor­an, D-Va., told BuzzFeed on Wed­nes­day, re­fer­ring to Obama’s prom­ises that Amer­ic­ans could keep their health plans.

In the Sen­ate, Demo­crats are rush­ing to put their stamp on the frus­tra­tion over can­celed in­sur­ance policies. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has in­tro­duced a more ag­gress­ive ver­sion of Up­ton’s bill — hers would re­quire in­sur­ance com­pan­ies to keep of­fer­ing plans, not simply al­low them to.

She picked up sup­port from the Left when Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, D-Cal­if., agreed to co­spon­sor the bill.

Sen. Mark Ud­all, D-Colo., in­tro­duced his own “keep your health care plan” bill on Wed­nes­day — an­oth­er sign of Demo­crats’ anxi­ety.

Demo­crats’ open­ness to the Up­ton bill in the House and sim­il­ar meas­ures in the Sen­ate sug­gest they might be will­ing to help pass a bill that would sub­stant­ively delay some of Obama­care’s be­ne­fit man­dates. If they’re angry enough to ac­tu­ally push for a vote in the Sen­ate, in­sur­ance com­pan­ies and the White House would face a ser­i­ous chal­lenge try­ing to beat back changes they be­lieve would un­der­mine the com­plex sys­tems of the ACA.

Sen. Mark Be­gich, D-Alaska, who is fa­cing a tough reelec­tion fight next year, said he wasn’t sure wheth­er lead­er­ship would ac­tu­ally bring a pro­pos­al to the floor.

“I think there’s a lot of people who want to bring bills to the floor, so I’m not sure who will bring it,” he said. “But I think there’s a lot of in­terest to try to fix it.”

Demo­crats will con­tin­ue to huddle on Thursday. House Demo­crats will hold a caucus meet­ing in the af­ter­noon.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., said he will also hold a full caucus meet­ing on Thursday af­ter­noon with a num­ber of White House of­fi­cials to brief sen­at­ors on the status of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“There are many ques­tions about health care, and I un­der­stand that,” Re­id said Wed­nes­day.

Obama called Re­id late Tues­day night and had “quite a long con­ver­sa­tion,” the ma­jor­ity lead­er ad­ded. “I feel very com­fort­able after hav­ing my con­ver­sa­tion last night that it will be fixed.”

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