Senate Democrats facing re-election in tough battleground states are starting to back away from Obamacare troubles while calling for extending the law's sign-on period and seeking delays in penalties for people who don't sign up before the Jan. 1 deadline.
Five incumbent Democrats in the Upper House — all facing election in swing states next year — are calling for extensions for the law. In all five states, polls show the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act, The Hill reports
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Oct. 22, asking that the open enrollment date be extended past March 31, 2014. Fellow Democrats. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina signed on to Shaheen's letter. All five are targeted for defeat by Republicans next year.
Pollsters said that all of the incumbents could face problems in the upcoming election if the Obamacare issues aren't solved.
For example, an OnMessage survey in Arkansas shows 62 percent of the people in that state oppose Obamacare. Wes Anderson, the pollster, wrote in a memo that while it's "theoretically possible" the Obamacare kinks will be solved, "It's far more likely that the issue will remain a serious hurdle for Sen. Pryor all the way through Election Day."
In a Louisiana poll, by Magellan Strategies, 60 percent of voters said they are less likely to support Landrieu because of her Obamacare support.
Another Democrat who backs a delay, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has said he'll co-sponsor legislation with GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia on the matter. Manchin does not face re-election until 2018.
But one senior Democratic aide denied Democrats are divided.
"Some just want to be proactive about making clear they think there are issues that need to be tweaked," the aide told The Hill. “No one thinks it’s perfect, but no one wants to repeal it or do anything major that could harm its long-term prospects for success.”
Further, the party's leadership does not appear to be backing the increasing calls to delay Obamacare.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who played an instrumental role in the law's 2010 passage, said this week that she does not support any proposals for delay, reports USA Today
"I'm optimistic that we'll be able to go forward on schedule," she said.
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