Republicans Get Ready for Their ‘I Told You So’ Moment

Kathleen Sebelius will testify “as early as next week” before Congress, and Republicans are ready for the media spectacle.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough attend an event with President Barack Obama to speak about the Affordable Care Act, the new healthcare laws, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on October 21, 2013.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
Oct. 21, 2013, 10:44 a.m.

After weeks of bruis­ing polit­ic­al losses and tank­ing polling num­bers, Re­pub­lic­ans are ready to gain some ground back with an “I told you so” mo­ment.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us will ap­pear be­fore a House pan­el “as early as next week” and will ad­dress is­sues with the health care web­site, de­part­ment of­fi­cials are con­firm­ing. And after months of say­ing the health care law was a fail­ure, this might be the time to drive that point home.

In what ap­peared to be a top-down co­ordin­ated ef­fort, House Re­pub­lic­ans spent much of Monday pres­sur­ing Se­beli­us to testi­fy be­fore Con­gress. It star­ted with tweets from Speak­er John Boehner and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor in rare, dir­ect mes­sages to Se­beli­us.

Sec. @Se­beli­us, @House­Com­merce is hold­ing a hear­ing on the #hcr roll out this Thursday; the Amer­ic­an people would love to hear from you.

— Speak­er John Boehner (@Speak­er­Boehner) Oc­to­ber 21, 2013

Pres­id­ent Obama should im­me­di­ately in­struct @Se­beli­us to testi­fy in Con­gress this week on the status of the health care ex­changes.

— Eric Can­tor (@GOPLead­er) Oc­to­ber 21, 2013

Much of the Re­pub­lic­an caucus fol­lowed suit and re­mains on mes­sage, mock­ing the sec­ret­ary in tweets throughout much of the day. 

Re­pub­lic­ans had sched­uled a House Com­mit­tee on En­ergy and Com­merce hear­ing for this Thursday, but Se­beli­us is sched­uled to be out of town and can’t make it.

Her ap­pear­ance and what is likely to be an in­tense con­gres­sion­al hear­ing comes days after the gov­ern­ment shut­down spec­tacle that gave the Re­pub­lic­an Party some of its low­est num­bers in re­cent years.

White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney punted on ques­tions of wheth­er Se­beli­us would testi­fy be­fore Con­gress this week, re­fer­ring re­port­ers to the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment for those ques­tions.

“I would say that the de­part­ment has con­sist­ently en­gaged with and worked with Con­gress and I am sure that the de­part­ment will con­tin­ue to do that,” Car­ney said when pressed.

The web­site for the Af­ford­able Care Act has been plagued with glitches and mal­func­tions since its rol­lout sev­er­al weeks ago. Re­pub­lic­ans were quick to jump on these is­sues, ty­ing them to what they say are broad­er is­sues with the health care law.

However, much of this news was shad­owed by the gov­ern­ment shut­down and im­pend­ing de­fault on Amer­ica’s loans.

But with that re­solved, Re­pub­lic­ans have turned their at­ten­tion back to­ward the law, and it looks like the Amer­ic­an people are listen­ing. Ac­cord­ing to a new ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post poll re­leased Monday, 56 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans tie the glitches to the web­site to broad­er im­ple­ment­a­tion prob­lems with the health care law.

Speak­ing to a group of sup­port­ers at the White House on Monday, Pres­id­ent Obama said that al­though he was frus­trated with these prob­lems, he still de­fen­ded the law. He also cri­ti­cized Re­pub­lic­ans for say­ing that these is­sues prove that the law is a fail­ure.

“I just want to re­mind every­body, we did not wage this long and con­ten­tious battle just around a web­site,” Obama said.

Still, Re­pub­lic­ans are look­ing for a fight to re­cap­ture some ground lost with the Amer­ic­an pub­lic. This might be their way back.

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