Former U.S. Rep. and Club for Growth President Chris Chocola blasted President Barack Obama’s defense of the much-maligned Obamacare enrollment site on Monday, describing the president's statements as "just nonsense."
Chocola, of Indiana, predicted that the website difficulties, as serious as they are, merely presage even larger setbacks as consumers learn more about how the complex law will affect them.
In remarks at the White House on Monday, Obama said thousands of consumers had already benefited from his signature healthcare reforms, saying "nobody’s madder than me" that the website hasn’t been working properly. He assured Americans that his administration is deploying a "tech surge" to fix the problems.
The New York Times reported Monday, however, that the site’s problems are much deeper than generally recognized. It could take weeks or even months to get the website working smoothly because about 5 million lines of code may need to be rewritten, it reported.
The president’s speech appeared to be an effort to balance the need to acknowledge the site's problems while also attempting to explain them.
"In fact," said the president, "even with the website issues, we've actually made the overall process of buying insurance through the marketplace a lot smoother and easier than the old way of buying insurance on your own."
Chocola dismissed those remarks as 'nonsense' in an exclusive Newsmax TV interview.
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"I don’t even know what he means by saying, 'But for the fact that you can't buy it, it makes buying really easy. But for the fact that you can't even see what your options are, you ought to be really happy with the options that are offered.’
"You know, it's like going on Amazon and saying, 'I can't buy the book or anything else, but it really makes it easy to buy it.' It's just nonsense, and it's really kind of amazing that the president would stand before the American people today and not really say, 'OK, we get it, it doesn't work, and we know that it's not fulfilling the promises that we made and we're going to figure it out.'
"Instead, [he is] trying to say, ‘Oh, it's not as bad as you think it is, in fact, it's making life better and you just don't know it.'"
Chocola also questioned the president’s assertion that no one is more upset than he is with the site's lack of performance.
Said Chocola: "Nobody's more upset about the IRS scandal than President Obama, nobody's more saddened by what's happening in Benghazi than President Obama, but it doesn't seem like any of those situations ever get resolved and no one's ever held accountable."
"So, I don't think that that really means much, that nobody's more upset about it than he is. If you ask people that are actually trying to get onto the site and are actually trying to learn about what their options are, they may actually be more upset than President Obama, because he doesn't have to do that because he doesn't even fall under Obamacare, which is a kind of interesting thing," he said.
Asked whether he supported calls by some other Republicans for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Chocola expressed doubts that would help.
"It would be great political theater and it would be Republicans' heyday to try and go to the confirmation hearings of a new HHS secretary, but I don't think it solves any problems," Chocola says.
"There was clearly lack of management oversight, there was clearly a lack of accountability, there was clearly a lack of testing. They had three years to put this thing in place, and nobody really thought about how it was going to work until the day they flipped the switch."
Chocola also played down speculation that the Club for Growth and other conservative groups will be avidly supporting primary challenges against Republicans who voted to end the government shutdown.
"We don't let one vote dictate our decisions," he said.
But the real issue, he said, is the reaction of voters.
"I always say that [for] incumbents that betray Republican principles or pro-growth principles, really, the Club for Growth is the least of their worries. And their primary voters are the most of their worries, because Republican primary voters, they understand whether people have lived up to their expectations or not."
He said he found it "somewhat amusing" that some members of Congress had complained about the flood of incoming calls to their offices urging them to support the shutdown.
"We'll continue to look for races . . . where we can find somebody to support that would be a better alternative than what's already there," he said. "But it's the voters that get to decide these things. And those are the people that incumbent members of Congress ought to be worried about and ought to live up to the promises they made when they asked for their vote."
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