Democrats Growing Uneasy With Obamacare Rollout

Joe Manchin arrives at the Old Senate Chambers for his swearing in by Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, November 15, 2010.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
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Elahe Izadi
Oct. 23, 2013, 12:47 p.m.

Prob­lems with the Obama­care in­sur­ance ex­changes web­site have caused some Demo­crats to call for changes to the pres­id­ent’s sig­na­ture law.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is work­ing on a bill delay­ing for one year the $95 pen­alty for those who don’t pur­chase health in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to a Sen­ate aide. The pen­alty is in­ten­ded to be the en­force­ment mech­an­ism be­hind the in­di­vidu­al man­date. Manchin’s bill will dif­fer from a meas­ure com­ing from Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., a vo­cal Obama­care op­pon­ent, that would delay the in­di­vidu­al man­date un­til six months after the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice cer­ti­fies that Health­Care.gov is fully func­tion­al.

It’s no sur­prise that Manchin would sup­port a delay in the pen­alty; in Septem­ber, he said at a Bloomberg Gov­ern­ment break­fast that he could back a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that in­cluded a one-year delay of the in­di­vidu­al man­date. “There’s no way I could not vote for it,” Manchin said at the time. “It’s very reas­on­able and sens­ible.” He later voted with Demo­crats to fund the gov­ern­ment without a delay in the health care law, say­ing in a state­ment, “I do not be­lieve we should hold our gov­ern­ment host­age while we work through the health care law.”

Not all Demo­crats are ask­ing for a delay. An­oth­er op­tion is to ex­tend the open-en­roll­ment peri­od bey­ond March 31, 2014, which is what Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., urged in a let­ter Tues­day to Pres­id­ent Obama. She also wrote that be­cause of the prob­lems with the web­site, “I ask that you cla­ri­fy how the in­di­vidu­al re­spons­ib­il­ity pen­alty will be ad­min­istered and en­forced. If an in­di­vidu­al is un­able to pur­chase health in­sur­ance due to tech­nic­al prob­lems with en­roll­ment, they should not be pen­al­ized be­cause of lack of cov­er­age.”

An Obama­care sup­port­er, Sen. Bill Nel­son, D-Fla., told re­port­ers in his Tampa of­fice on Wed­nes­day that prob­lems with the health care web­site are “in­ex­cus­able” and “some­body ought to get fired” over them, ac­cord­ing to his of­fice. But his of­fice said that the sen­at­or “de­clined to place blame on any one in­di­vidu­al, agency or com­pany for prob­lems with the web­site.”

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