Obama Fights to Hold the Hill

The President's hour-long apologia Thursday tempered the Democratic panic over Obamacare, but he still faces a hard battle.

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Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Capitol stands in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14, 2013.

In an effort to appease a frustrated public and rebellious party, President Obama introduced a “fix” to the Affordable Care Act Thursday, allowing insurers to provide existing customers health care plans that had been cancelled for next year. But the executive action only temporarily stifled the revolt in the Democratic Party without changing much the underlying conditions of their anger. Among Capitol Hill Democrats Thursday, there was open discussion of breaking with the president, a stunning turnaround from last month, when the party remained firmly united to defend Obamacare during the 16-day partial government shutdown.

“The current state of the system is absolutely unacceptable and this is a start,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “I think there’s a lot of support for additional changes that require legislation.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have introduced legislation that would go far beyond the president’s limited effort to allow insurers to continue low-quality health insurance plans that are supposed to be banned under the healthcare law. Landrieu’s bill requires insurers to continue current policies even if they fail to meet Obamacare’s minimum standard for essential health benefits; Upton’s legislation, scheduled for a vote Friday, allows insurers to sell existing policies into 2014 to all, even new customers. Udall prefers to let people stay with their current health plan for a full two years, rather than Obama’s one.

(MORE: Fighting for His Presidency)

The White House believes Republicans will use any legislation to undermine the law. Late Thursday, the White House issued a veto threat on the Upton bill, calling the proposal “a major step back” in the administration’s efforts to expand affordable health care.

Speaker of the House John Boehner rallied Republicans around Upton’s bill, arguing it advanced their longstanding call for ACA’s repeal. Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the Senate GOP’s electoral arm, told TPM, “Landrieu is championing legislation to destroy Obamacare.” It’s that sentiment that is driving the administration’s fears against pursuing a legislative fix.

The bills have presented a major political problem for Obama. Landrieu wooed other red-state Democrats up for reelection—Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)—but also Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Udall, himself up for re-election, attracted the support of vulnerable Sen. Mark Begich (D-Ala.). On Wednesday, estimates ranged as high as 100 Democrats potentially voting for the Upton bill, but the President’s reaction Thursday lowered the tensions from its boil.

When asked how many Democratic votes Upton’s bill would receive Friday, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who opposes the plan, said, “A lot fewer than if the President hadn’t spoken today.” One House Republican leadership aide estimated Upton’s bill would attract around 30 Democrats.

“[The President’s] decision is sensible and provides the small number of affected consumers with more information and choices about their health care,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said in a public statement. “There is no need for a legislative fix for this issue.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said that Republicans have “overblown” ACA’s impact on cancellations, adding that he preferred an administration fix to a legislative one.

But the President is still struggling, as even those that support him take a wait-and-see approach. After a Democratic caucus meeting Thursday night, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said that the President had taken “positive steps” before adding that House Democratic colleagues may introduce an alternative Friday, allowing members to be on the record for attempting to change the law before the 2014 midterms. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who is undecided on the Upton plan, recognizes the potential impact of a new slew of Americans for Prosperity anti-Obamacare ads in his district.

(MORE: The 9%: Congress’s Approval Rating Hits the Single Digits)

“The fact that they’re bankrolling a campaign against me right now as we speak,” said Rahall, “is going to have negative repercussions.”

The White House is actively cautioning Democrats to hold the line against the Upton bill and allow time to see whether the president’s fix will indeed pan out. Obama’s carefully calibrated response, delivered after a week of intense blowback at the law, doesn’t solve the ‘you can keep it’ promise for all. In fact, it shifts the burden to state regulators and insurance companies to continue to offer plans they have been working to phase out. Already insurance regulators in Washington State have said they will not allow the companies in their jurisdiction to continue the low-quality plans. Insurers, meanwhile, expressed fears about the confusion the last-minute rules change will cause. “Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” said America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) President and CEO Karen Ignagni in a statement.

But the White House hopes that Obama’s efforts, and his contrite, nearly hour-long performance before the cameras in the White House briefing room Thursday, will begin to shift public opinion back in favor of the law—or at least stem the bleeding. Earlier this week, Obama earned a record low 39% approval rating in a Quinnipiac University survey, with a majority of those polls believing the president untrustworthy. On Wednesday, the Administration reported that around 106,000 Americans had signed up for the new health care exchanges in October, way below their goal of a half million.

Insurance companies, regulators, and the American people are now struggling to figure out how to cope with the new edict, which could tip the balance for legislative action. Meanwhile, the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill are closely monitoring the political winds for any sign they’ve stemmed the bleeding. Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, says we’ll know “in a matter of days” whether the insurance companies are going to rescind the cancellations. “If they don’t,” he added, “then perhaps we’ll look at something more stringent.”

77 comments
ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Long after this Fraud posing as President is gone, the damage that he had done to this country will be felt for generations to come. Never mind on the national and domestic scene. But this countries enemies are getting stronger and advancing thanks  Obama leading from behind and reset policy. Iran will get its nuclear weaponry and the Middle East will be a more explosive place for the world, as Saudi Arabia and Egypt will try to acquire its own from Pakistan. You have paid more than enough America in your desire to have an incompetent fool for President all because of his color, and his excellent imitation of Al Green.


Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

Obama is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen, that's for sure.

AsokSmith
AsokSmith

In case anyone who was wondering how Obama could wave his magic dictator's wand and "allow" insurance companies to offer continuation of non-compliant (illegal)  policies: he can't. Not really. He can't make the policies legal, but what he can do is tell the insurance companies he won't prosecute them for offering illegal policies. So Obama is telling the insurance companies: "Don't worry, it's OK to issue illegal policies because I promise my administration won't prosecute you." In other words, Obama can't make the policies legal, so he's encouraging the insurance companies to break the law.

So encouraging the insurance companies to break the law is "Obama's Big Fix"! So how's that for great health insurance reform? Oh, yeah, and what a wonderful way to govern the country: encourage law-breaking. Given the example this President sets, why should anyone else feel compelled to follow the law about anything?

On the other hand, we all know that "Obama's Big Fix" is impossible. State insurance commissioners are saying "NO", and the insurance companies won't issue illegal polices anyway due to massive liability issues. Oh, and what happens in case anyone does get to buy such an illegal policy? They'd still have to pay the "fine" because they won't have Obamacare-compliant polices and the President didn't give those people any "prosecutorial discretion".

Besides, Obama himself said the reason for "Obama's Big Fix" is "“What we want to do is to be able to say to these folks, you know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan.”

That's just plain despicable. Absolutely despicable. Coming up with a health care plan that requires encouraging companies to break the law, yet knowing the call to illegality is actually impossible anyway, and then on top of doing that, doing it solely to shift blame from himself and the Democrats that passed this monstrosity.

Mortally ill people who've lost their insurance and their doctors will soon be dying because of Obamacare. Ted Cruz needs to gather a couple of dozen of these poor souls from around the nation, and hold a press conference with them surrounding him, and declare: "Mr. President, let's tear down this Obamacare now! It's time to repeal this monstrosity. Too many innocent people are dying already. Let's stop the horror before more are killed by it."

jmac
jmac

Rich Lowry:  The Upton bill won't become law, but through realizing it's political power and taking it up quickly, House Republicans had a good week in the fight against Obamacare.  They reinforced that they are the party opposed to the cancellations;   they pushed the president into action, if it works undermines the exchanges and if it doesn't, shows yet again he isn't keeping his promise . . they moved the ball down the field this week.

This is one sick statement and one sick party.    The whole point of the bill was to undermine the exchanges.   The whole point of the fight is to win seats in the mid-term.   It's never, ever,  about a better America - it's always about the win.  

Penswoman
Penswoman

Key words: "low-quality health insurance plans." Not enough people understand that the policies no longer available starting in  January are mainly godawful. These plans should be cancelled.  Most people can purchase  much better insurance on the health care exchanges. 

Furthermore, helping the Republicans destroy Obamacare does not guarantee any of these quislings will be reelected. 


roknsteve
roknsteve

Pres. Obama fights to hold the Hill while Republicans play to burn it down in January. 

nyny3a
nyny3a

Obama would of had more time to keep up with what was going on with Obamacare if there were not the constant distractions coming from the Republicon party.

paulejb
paulejb

"Obamacare's Problems Could Haunt Democrats for Years"

"For decades, Democratic strategists have viewed universal health care as their best opportunity to reverse the doubt among many voters, especially whites, that government programs can tangibly benefit their families. Now the catastrophic rollout of the health law threatens instead to reinforce those doubts. That outcome could threaten Democratic priorities for years."

http://www.nationaljournal.com/political-connections/obamacare-s-problems-could-haunt-democrats-for-years-20131115

The TEA PARTY has been warning about this for four years. They were mocked as racist extremists by the same people who gave us this ObamaCare fiasco.

ObamaCare = FUBAR.

paulejb
paulejb

"President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/us/politics/parallels-to-bush-in-toxic-political-mix-threatening-obama.html?_r=0

Katrina was an act of nature beyond mankind's control. ObamaCare was a premeditated assault on the nation's health care insurance system.

paulejb
paulejb

39 Democrats have joined most Republicans in the House in voting for a measure that liberal extremists have labeled the repeal of ObamaCare. It would appear that the bloom is off the ObamaCare rose.

manlyman
manlyman

@Libtards-UNITE he doesn't need to be sharp. A strong will is all that is required to destroy. Intellect is optional.

jmac
jmac

@Libtards-UNITE   "Obama is not the sharpest knife . . . "

That's right, Libtards-Unite.   He thought he could pass a Republican health care plan and Republicans would work with him.    Ha ha.  Naive as a new-born baby.   

So let's get a Republican president to get a single-payer Democratic plan.  You know, one that's cost effective and doesn't have insurance companies laughing all the way to the bank.      How naive would that be?    

barneydidit
barneydidit

@Libtards-UNITE Well...they all can't have the intellect your guy George "Is our children learning" Bush had lib. 

jmac
jmac

@AsokSmith  "Mortally ill people" who lost their insurance and their doctors will not soon be dying because of Obamacare.     That is a ridiculous statement.    But keep up the rant because you make those in the middle understand that your party is deranged. 

 If anyone needs a doctor and a plan, it would be the Republican party.   They have crippled themselves with people like you and at this point, you're all they've got.   They have triaged themselves into a death spiral.   

paulejb
paulejb

@nyny3a 

How? Were Republicans standing in his way on the golf course?

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb No, they were mocked for carrying signs that said "keep your government hands off my medicare" and for their general lack of coherence. 

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb Well, I see you have a hobby Paule, that's nice...should be therapeutic for you. Give me a call when the GOP gets the White House back. 

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb No! It was the death spiral in 2010...the last time Republicans won an election. 

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb Wasn't that what you told us in 2009 Paule? You guys planning on running Cruz against us next time around? Rand?

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@Un_Lys @ReneDemonteverde Benghazi, IRS, Fast and Furious, ObamaCare, secret messages to Putin, Bradley Manning, Snowden, leading from behind, Reset policy, and this are only the few. I Do not have to get a white board for you. You can figure those out yourself. I see Obama as President selected by voters above all others for his supposed intelligence, courage and the ability to put priority on American interest above all else, including himself. Unfortunately the idiot cannot look beyond the color of his skin, the interest of his community, the extravagance of his wife. If you cannot see my point you better pull out your head out of your you know where. Who knows you might see Obama for what he is.

Sawber_s
Sawber_s

@Un_Lys @ReneDemonteverde 

Assuming Obamacare isn't overturned in the next legislative session or at least the one after that, the financial impact will be devastating.  The numbers for Obamacare simply do not work and the taxpayers (out children) will be left footing the bill.  There are not real cost controls within the ACA that will ever be implemented.  The costs that have come in are more than twice what was predicted.

The fact that the young people appear to be refusing to cooperate with paying more, will drive taxpayer costs up even more.

Most everything else--like him making us the international laughing stock--even moreso that Bush, is recoverable by new  (or some actual) leadership.  His sullying the office with so many scandals also is recoverable by the new leadership.  Not sure how the "gays in the military" thing will work out.  A few rapes by roommates when the straight guy said he did not want to be bunking with the gay guy will cause devastating moral problems.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@manlyman @Libtards-UNITE That and love of country plus sincerity and honesty should be a requirement to be this country`s leader. But then that is too much to ask for this Fraud.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmac @Libtards-UNITE Elections have  consequences, remember that phrase ? Plus the shutting out of the Republicans in the crafting of this abomination. Try to open your eyes a little bit wider. You might be surprise at things you can notice if only you were more wide eyed.

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

@jmac @Libtards-UNITE Now you are blaming ObamaCare on the Republicans.  LMAO at you simpletons. 

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

@barneydidit

@Libtards-UNITE

 "No, no. I have been practicing...I bowled a 129. It's like -- it was like Special Olympics, or something." --making an off-hand joke during an appearance on "The Tonight Show", March 19, 2009 (Obama later called the head of the Special Olympics to apologize)

"Even though most people agree... I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind-meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right." --mixing up Star Wars and Star Trek references while discussing working with Republicans in Congress (March 1, 2013)

"We're the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad." —Cincinnati, OH, Sept. 22, 2011

"What I was suggesting -- you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith..." --in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who jumped in to correct Obama by saying "your Christian faith," which Obama quickly clarified (Watch video clip)

"Let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel's. It will be a strong friend of Israel's under a McCain...administration. It will be a strong friend of Israel's under an Obama administration. So that policy is not going to change." --Amman, Jordan, July 22, 2008

"How's it going, Sunshine?" --campaigning in Sunrise, Florida


 "In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died -- an entire town destroyed." --on a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

@jmac @AsokSmith  Keep telling yourself that.  I mean, how could anyone compete with Hillary in '16 right?  She is such a warm, approachable gal.  lol

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb @nyny3a Ny may have been referring to the distractive nature of voting against your own bills in an effort to obstruct. Everyone knew there would be pouting and fit throwing coming from the right when Obama was elected, but to watch them vote against their own bills was simply mesmerizing.  

Sawber_s
Sawber_s

@jmac

"We're an international laughing stock because we're the only industrialized country that doesn't cover its citizens for practical health care."

Except that you statement is not true,

Libtards-UNITE
Libtards-UNITE

@jmac You're very funny. Everything is the last guys fault.  Well, in that case, 9/11 was Bill Clinton's fault.  Since Iraq was a result of that, then I guess the mess we are currently in is Clinton's fault.  We don't call ourselves a Christian nation, it might offend our Muslim population and our Muslim president.

jmac
jmac

@Sawber_s @Un_Lys @ReneDemonteverde We're an international laughing stock because we're the only industrialized country that doesn't cover its citizens for practical health care.   In the meantime, we yell we're a Christian nation, torture prisoners and invade countries that had no WMD's or al Qaeda and put the  bill on the next president.  

It's very funny.  

barneydidit
barneydidit

@Libtards-UNITE What Republicans? What Chaffee Bil? Never heard of either of them. George Bush? Don't recall. Trickle Down economics didn't work?   Geesh you conservatives have short memories. 

jmac
jmac

@Libtards-UNITE @jmac @AsokSmith Give us your best shot, Libby.   How about Jeb Bush? How about Christie?   Ayn Rand Paul or Ayn Rand Ryan?    The field is endless.   

Can't wait to see h-i-m.   Bring him on.  

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb @barneydidit I believe you would call the ones sweating "RINO's" Paule if they had "R's" at the end of their names instead of "D's"

manlyman
manlyman

@barneydidit @paulejb the right idea is to get rid of the aca. Then we go from there. However bad you think our healthcare system was, it was 10 times better than the crap we're seeing now. Most of us like our "junk" plans way more than what the aca has to "offer". First things first: obama must fail!

barneydidit
barneydidit

@paulejb The "harm" is in not having a plan Paule. When a ship is sinking, you have to do something. At least the ACA was something. 

paulejb
paulejb

@barneydidit @paulejb 

First, do no harm...