Panic is growing among Senate Democrats facing re-election next year that the disastrous rollout of Obamacare could prove to be the final nail in the coffin of their Washington careers.
Sixteen senators met with President Barack Obama this week with a simple message: Get your act together or your healthcare reform could lose our support.
And they made it clear they are not prepared to be the sacrificial lambs on the altar of Obama's troubled healthcare agenda.
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The group agreed not to go full-out in demanding delays to the Affordable Care Act's timetable, however, they were told they can criticize the act and its introduction, Politico reports
Already, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, both of whom are up for re-election in 2014, have separately proposed legislation they believe will curb the public's anger at the healthcare reforms.
But Obama wants to give his tech crew breathing room to improve the HealthCare.gov website that has been the focus of much of the public criticism.
For now, Democrats are listening, but it's unclear how long they will heed the warning.
"I am very frustrated with the rollout of the exchanges," said Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who also faces a 2014 re-election, in a statement
. "The dysfunction and delays are unacceptable.
"After meeting with the president, I remain deeply convinced that this is a 'show-me' moment."
A total of 20 Democrat-held Senate seats are up for grabs next year. Republicans would need to win six of those and hold on to all 13 of their seats to regain control of the Upper Chamber.
The warnings are already there. The Democrats "are going to get slaughtered" unless the Affordable Care Act makes a "miraculous recovery," syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News
, pointing to Terry McAuliffe's narrow victory in the election for Virginia governor, which, he said, went from "almost landslide to cliffhanger," as Obamacare dominated the news in the final few days.
Despite their re-election concerns, Obama asked the senators in the closed-door meeting to hold off on any legislation that could delay major aspects of his reforms.
He reassured them that the site will get fixed, but one unidentified aide told Politico that if that doesn't happen by the end of the year, the pressure will be on Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring up legislation to delay certain aspects of Obamacare.
"If we can't pivot off this by the new year, then we're in trouble," the senior aide told Politico.
Right now, Reid says he has no plans to bring any legislation to the floor that could delay any piece of Obamacare, but several senators are working on legislation to do just that if the Obama administration can't repair the site as promised.
Shaheen's bill would extend the enrollment period beyond March 31 next year. Landrieu has offered up a bill to allow consumers to keep the coverage they currently have.
Landrieu is one of the most vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election next year
. Others, including Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina have pushed for a delay in the enrollment deadline.
After the meeting, Hagan said the rollout "obviously is not going the way it should."
"I'm disappointed and I'm frustrated and it's totally unacceptable because the American people deserve better, and the way I look at it, North Carolinians deserve better," she added, according to McClatchy.
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Shaheen, too, is far from a shoo-in for re-election in the Granite State. She faces a potential challenge from former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, whose high name recognition is being seen as a major plus.
While the disquiet spreads, the White House tries to play down the political problems Obamacare is bringing for Democrats. Press secretary Jay Carney says the president doesn't believe Obamacare will become a problem.
"He's not concerned about the politics of it," Carney said. "The president believes that delivering of access to affordable and quality care is policy that makes good politics."
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