White House Tries to Calm Nervous Democrats on Obamacare

Wednesday, 24 Jul 2013 11:35 AM

By Melanie Batley

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White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has taken on the role of Obamacare cheerleader to calm anxious congressional Democrats who have been losing faith in the program's viability.

According to Politico, McDonough has spent the past three months working with Democrats to quell their anxieties by briefing them about the administration's progress and plans for rolling out the new healthcare law.

Using McDonough and a team of aides focused on Obamacare, the administration has conducted more than 20 briefings since May with House and Senate lawmakers and staff, including some Republicans, according to Politico.

The aim of the briefings is to bolster Democrats' confidence about the healthcare law as inevitable glitches occur on the path to implementation. The briefings have also been designed to open the lines of communication between lawmakers and the White House so that concerns can be privately aired and resolved.

"They know they have had a problem," said Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who months ago broke with his party to publicly warn that the Obamacare rollout was a "huge train wreck coming down."

"They're dealing with it very forthrightly. I feel better about it than I did before," Baucus told Politico.

McDonough has also spent time talking with individual lawmakers about other key issues, such as Guantanamo Bay, student loan rate hikes, and a potential deficit-reduction compromise, a sign that the White House realizes it needs to work more closely with Capitol Hill.

"There is clearly a lot of concern among [senators] up for re-election next year. They were pretty clear with McDonough about that," a top Senate Democrat told Politico. "They want to see the White House get on top of this."

"There is a lot of anxiety still, but people are in a better place than they were a couple of months ago," a senior White House official said of the progress the administration has made in rebuilding confidence among Democrats on the Hill, according to Politico.

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