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Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., gives the Obamacare rollout an F-minus.
Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., gives the Obamacare rollout an F-minus.

Democrats brace for Obamacare fallout

Healthcare | Now that voters are finding out what’s in the bill, Democratic lawmakers scramble to distance themselves from the president’s healthcare law

WASHINGTON—During the push to pass Obamacare in 2010, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleaded, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

More than three years later, America is finding out what’s in the mammoth new government program: a dysfunctional website, millions of canceled insurance polices, and higher premiums.

Despite this disastrous rollout, Pelosi on Nov. 17 refused to back away from Obamacare.

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“I will tell you this: Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

But 39 House Democrats didn’t agree with Pelosi’s message to stand tall. Likely worried about the effect Obamacare may have on their reelection chances, those Democrats broke party ranks and voted for a Republican-led measure allowing individuals to keep their current insurance plans. It was the largest revolt of Democrats on a congressional vote this year.

Many congressional Democrats in competitive districts likely would be grateful this Thanksgiving week if Obamacare would just go away.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., gave the Obamacare rollout a grade of F-minus.

“Heads should have rolled in my opinion,” said Rahall, who won his district with 54 percent of the vote in 2012.

Over in the Senate, Democrats, many already facing tough reelection fights, are lining up to sponsor bills changing the healthcare law many of them once championed.

Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., authored bills addressing the millions of canceled plans. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote legislation delaying the penalty assessed to individuals who don’t buy insurance. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., has a bill extending the enrollment period beyond the current March 31 deadline. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, pushed legislation creating a new “copper plan” healthcare option.

Many of the bills do little more than provide their authors political cover heading into their 2014 reelection campaigns. But with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refusing to bring Obamacare bills backed by Democrats to the floor, the maneuverings highlight a fracturing party. That fissure could burst open if Obamacare continues to falter and party leaders balk at changes.

Democrats are crossing their fingers that the disastrous HealthCare.gov website will shed its glitch-filled reputation in the coming days. But the White House has spent the past week backing away from an earlier pledge that the website would be running smoothly by the end of November. The latest talking point is that it will be working for the “majority” of people who log on.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney quantified that statement by saying the White House would accept a success rate of eight out of 10 users, meaning that 20 percent of its consumers would still face problems. Republicans have pointed out that Amazon.com probably would not be pleased with a similar result.

Democrats saying they want to “fix” Obamacare surely have been reading the latest polls. Support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan dropped 16 points in one month among Democrats. Nearly four in 10 voters said they would likely oppose a congressional candidate who supports Obamacare. In Montana, where key Obamacare backer and Democrat Sen. Max Baucus is retiring, just 14 percent of voters think the healthcare law has been a success. While in Ohio, a key battleground state, a poll released today shows that 59 percent oppose Obamacare and 45 percent say they expect their quality of healthcare to be worse one year from now.

Nationally, just 7 percent of Americans think the law is working. A Gallup poll seven years ago found 69 percent of Americans believed the government should be responsible for healthcare. But a new Gallup poll now shows that 56 percent of Americans believe government should not be in charge of healthcare.

And a majority of Americans object to an element of Obamacare that has long worried social and religious conservatives. The Family Research Council and the Alliance for Defending Freedom released a poll Tuesday showing 59 percent of likely voters oppose the Obamacare mandate requiring certain contraceptive coverage for women that include drugs that can destroy a human embryo.

Obama has tried to help his fellow Democrats by offering a one-year reprieve on the canceled polices. But many Democrats in closely divided districts and states are arguing that such an executive fiat isn’t enough.

“Members of Congress aren’t judged by administrative fixes; they’re judged by their voting records,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., who added that there is a lot of “plain-speaking” going on between Democrats in Washington and the White House.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners also threw cold water on the president’s effort, arguing that his late change would undermine the marketplace and lead to higher premiums. Several states are declining to accept Obama’s option.

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