From top left: Mary Landrieu, Bruce Braley, Barack Obama, Mark Begich and Diana DeGette are pictured in this composite. | AP Photos
Democrats in Congress worry that Obamacare’s rollout has left them vulnerable in 2014.
By JONATHAN ALLEN | 11/25/13 4:56 AM EST Updated: 11/25/13 6:52 AM EST
Some Capitol Hill Democrats are preparing to launch broadsides against President Barack Obama if the Affordable Care Act website isn’t fixed by the end of the month.
That will come in the form of more aggressive scrutiny in Republican-led oversight hearings, open advocacy for further delay in the enrollment deadline and individual coverage mandate, and more calls for a staff shake-up in the White House.
“The president and his team have repeatedly assured us that the system will be working by Dec. 1. That’s when I start looking at what we have to do in our oversight function to hold the administration accountable for making it work.” Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat said Thursday, adding that he’s contemplating whether to ask the president to fire members of his staff. “I’m thinking about those options. But my biggest concern is fixing the system and making it work.”
(Understanding Obamacare: POLITICO’s guide to the Affordable Care Act)
Asked whether he was mad at the president, Braley hesitated for a few seconds amid the din of a Capitol hallway.
“Yes,” he said.
The building frustration — expressed in part Nov. 15 when 39 House Democrats voted for a GOP bill that would have let consumers keep expiring insurance plans — is driven by the fear that Obama’s failed rollout has suddenly left scores of Democrats vulnerable to defeat in the House and Senate.
These Democrats won’t win legislative changes without the assent of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — and likely Obama — but their public positioning could put unsustainable pressure on the administration’s efforts to hold the line on the current contours of the law. And while the House is scheduled to return to session on Dec. 3, the Senate won’t be back in from its Thanksgiving break until the week of Dec. 9.
But already, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is leading an upper-chamber push to allow people to keep their existing health plans. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who has introduced his own plan to give people other health care options, recently said he thought the appropriate time to act was after Thanksgiving break.
“Let’s just wait and see what happens. We’re gonna — we’re gonna take two weeks off. I’m gonna visit with my five children together for the first time, 16 grandchildren, 44 people for Thanksgiving dinner. Let’s talk about that for a while,” Reid said last week.
But in the meantime, Democratic lawmakers — particularly those on the House side — are preparing to try to put distance between themselves and the president because they’re not confident that the White House has a Plan B for getting the policy right or protecting them in the mid-term elections.
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