The Emerging Democratic Divide Over Obamacare

President Obama is facing the reality that longtime allies are now looking out for their own survival, not taking one for the team.

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) listens during a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works meeting discussing global warming on January 30, 2007.
National Journal
Josh Kraushaar
Nov. 13, 2013, 5:48 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans are in the midst of a messy civil war between their es­tab­lish­ment wing and the tea-party in­sur­gents. But with Pres­id­ent Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ings col­lapsing amid prob­lems with his sig­na­ture health care law, Demo­crats are start­ing to face their own di­vi­sions.

Pres­id­ent Obama v. the Clin­tons. It’s hard to be­lieve Bill Clin­ton’s re­com­mend­a­tion that Obama hon­or his health care prom­ise was an ac­ci­dent. Not only did it provide cov­er for con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats to break with the White House, it also ad­ded to the pres­sure on an ad­min­is­tra­tion des­per­ately try­ing to come up with any last-ditch ad­min­is­trat­ive fix to stop the bleed­ing — without harm­ing the law it­self. Clin­ton knows how dam­aging the Obama­care prob­lems could be to Sen­ate Demo­crats and, if not re­solved soon, that they could have a last­ing im­pact on his wife’s (likely) pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. Hil­lary Clin­ton can’t tweak her old boss, but her hus­band cer­tainly can (and has be­fore).

Con­gres­sion­al di­vide between red-state Demo­crats and Obama loy­al­ists. We’re already see­ing red-state Demo­crats and sen­at­ors on the bal­lot in 2014 be­gin to break away from the White House. As polit­ic­ally pal­at­able le­gis­la­tion to al­ter Obama­care comes through with bi­par­tis­an sup­port, there will be a lot of pres­sure on oth­ers to join in (pa­ging re­li­ably lib­er­al Sens. Di­anne Fein­stein and Ben Cardin). The White House may res­ist, but a veto-proof ma­jor­ity may soon be build­ing to make sig­ni­fic­ant changes to the law, giv­en the cur­rent polit­ic­al sen­ti­ment. Des­pite dif­fi­cult re­la­tions with Con­gress, Obama usu­ally could count on party loy­alty to get him through rocky patches. Not any­more.

The party’s Hil­lary Clin­ton-Eliza­beth War­ren split. Clin­ton looks closer to a lock than any­one for the 2016 Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion this far out — as­sum­ing she runs. But the party’s pro­gress­ive wing is already star­ted to push Eliza­beth War­ren as a cred­ible can­did­ate. That’s un­likely. War­ren, des­pite the buzz, isn’t a smooth cam­paign­er. She would ap­peal mainly to a nar­row, af­flu­ent slice of the Demo­crat­ic elect­or­ate, and many of her Mas­sachu­setts Sen­ate donors would go with Clin­ton. But as 2016 draws closer, Demo­crats may start to worry about Obama’s bag­gage spread­ing to the party’s fu­ture nom­in­ee. Ex­pect to hear grow­ing pro­gress­ive angst to find any lib­er­al out­sider to chal­lenge the for­mid­able front-run­ner.

Amer­ic­an polit­ic­al his­tory shows that the pres­id­ent’s party tends to be united, while the op­pos­i­tion of­ten looks lead­er­less, rud­der­less, and di­vided. But when the pres­id­ent’s ap­prov­al rat­ing sinks in­to dan­ger­ous ter­rit­ory, that for­mula be­comes in­op­er­at­ive. And Obama is fa­cing the real­ity that many long­time al­lies are now look­ing out more for their polit­ic­al sur­viv­al than his leg­acy or the fate of his name­sake law.

What We're Following See More »
LGBT Amendment Sinks Energy and Water Approps
1 hours ago

The House voted down the otherwise uncontroversial Energy and Water appropriations bill Thursday after Democrats succeeded in attaching an amendment affirming LGBT job discrimination protections for military contractors. More than 40 Republicans supported the amendment, but when it came to vote on the bill, 130 Republicans joined all but six Democrats to sink the bill. Speaker Paul Ryan said Democrats voting against the bill after securing the amendment shows their intention was to scuttle the process. Democrats, however, blamed other so-called poison-pill amendments for their votes against the bill. Nonetheless, Ryan said he intends to continue the appropriations process.

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 hours ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

70,000 Have Missed American Airlines Flights This Year
2 hours ago

"Airport screening delays have caused more than 70,000 American Airlines customers and 40,000 checked bags to miss their flights this year, an executive for the airline told a U.S. congressional subcommittee on Thursday. A shortage of staff and a surge in air travelers have created a nightmare scenario for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with airport wait times in places like Chicago stretching beyond two hours."

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
3 hours ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

What Did Sen. Cotton Say About Harry Reid?
4 hours ago

That the minority leader curses the Senate with his "cancerous leadership." After Reid tried to halt a defense bill, Cotton took to the floor and blasted Reid, adding, "As a junior senator, I preside over the Senate. I usually do in the morning, which means I'm forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the Minority Leader. Normally, like other Americans, I ignore them."