Republicans aren’t alone in their sharp critiques of HealthCare.gov’s troubled rollout and assertions that changes are needed to the Affordable Care Act as a result. A growing group of congressional Democrats has started saying the same thing in the last few days, which could complicate things for the White House as it seeks to right the Obamacare ship.
The White House hopes to keep a unified Democratic caucus behind the health insurance marketplace, as Republicans seize on its problematic launch to call for changes to the ACA. But in the last few days, there have been signs of cracks in party unity.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said in a statement Tuesday that she would support extending Obamacare’s open enrollment — which is supposed to end on March 31 — to ensure people have time to sign up for coverage if they’ve been stymied by the glitches of the first few weeks.
“As you continue to fix problems with the website and the enrollment process, it is critical that the Administration be open to modifications that provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance,” Shaheen said in a letter addressed to President Obama.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), who is facing a tough re-election campaign in Arkansas, told CNN Wednesday that he supported Shaheen’s suggestion. CNN later reported that, according to a “senior dem source,” every Democratic senator up for reelection in 2014 would back the proposal.
Another Senate Democrat from a red-tinged state, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), will soon take things even further and introduce a bill to delay Obamacare’s individual mandate for one year, his office told TPM. Manchin’s bill — which would be a much more significant blow to Obamacare — hasn’t received public support from any other Democratic senators. It’s a counter to an upcoming bill from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), expected to be introduced next week, that would call for the mandate to be delayed until six months after the Government Accountability Office confirms HealthCare.gov is running properly.
And coming out of a private briefing Wednesday by the administration, some House Democrats also expressed openness to a mandate delay.
“If the problems are intense as they are this morning, then maybe we would have to consider a short delay in terms of the individual mandate,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) told Yahoo! News. “I say, ‘maybe.’ I have a good feeling that we’re going to overcome these things.”
It’s that second part of Pascrell’s statement that the White House and Democratic leadership are counting on. Some members might be frustrated — Rep. Richard Nolan (D-MN) told the Associated Press that Obama should fire somebody — but leadership hopes their support for the ACA will override those concerns.
After the administration briefing, House Democratic leaders delivered that message: Fix it, but don’t gut it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said explicitly that she didn’t support Shaheen’s proposal for an extended open enrollment period.
“I think somebody should fix it,” Pelosi said at a Wednesday press conference. “And again, I am a big believer, coming from where I do, in California, I have great confidence in technology and its ability to bring fresh eyes to the subject and fix it so that we can go forward. Just fix it. Just fix it.”