Democrats Threaten Defections to GOP Bill Changing Obamacare

Image: Democrats Threaten Defections to GOP Bill Changing Obamacare Rep. Steny Hoyer

Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 07:46 AM

By Lisa Barron

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The White House has until Friday to find a cure for President Barack Obama's ailing healthcare initiative or face possible defections by top Democrats willing to support a House GOP bill to change it.

Political pressure from both sides of the aisle has been steadily growing and will come to a head on Friday when Republicans take up a proposal by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton allowing individuals to keep their current coverage even if it does not meet the standards set out in the Affordable Care Act, reports CNN.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

The New York Post reported that many Democrats are enraged and fear their once-safe seats are now threatened in the 2014 midterm elections. They didn't hesitate to launch into the administration during a close-door session at the White House Wednesday.

“It got heated. Don’t come here telling us [the Web site] would be fixed by November 30 because the whole world believes it won’t be fixed,” fumed Rep. JosĂ© Serrano, D-Bronx, according to the New York Post.

“They heard our caucus,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-NJ. “In this business, you keep your word or get out.”

In the Senate, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri reportedly said, “The [ObamaCare] store’s open and the door’s locked.”

“I’m frustrated and angry along with everyone else,” she declared.

"We've got to get out of the bunker and fix these problems," a senior Democratic congressional source told CNN, referring to the fact that millions of Americans are losing their current plans because they don't comply with Obamacare requirements for more comprehensive coverage, including such things as mental health and prenatal care.

"In the absence of a solution that Democrats can support from the White House, you will see more and more Democrats voting for the Upton bill," the source said.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, even indicated at one point that he might support the Upton bill if he does not see movement from the president on the question of allowing individuals to keep the insurance they have now.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has already offered a bill that would let people keep health plans that existed as of Dec. 31 for as long as they want. So far, two key Democrats — Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon — have joined as co-sponsors.

And Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado has introduced another bill to let people keep existing health plans for up to two years.

But reinstating old plans cuts right to the core of Obamacare, which was designed to force people onto more costly plans with more benefits. Health insurance experts say policy cancellations can’t be reversed without upending the new law.

“There’s no free lunch. The healthier have to pay more to make the law work,” MIT economics professor Jon Gruber, who advised the White House on ObamaCare, told the Post.

“If you keep the promise for younger and healthier people to keep their current plans, you break the promise to provide affordable coverage to many more millions of people.”

Last week, the president apologized to people who have had their insurance plans canceled despite his promise that everyone would be able to keep their current health coverage. But his apology appears to have been too little, too late.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll showed that the president's approval rating has dropped to 39 percent as the problems plaguing the Obamacare rollout on Oct. 1 have persisted well into November.

The poll found that 54 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama's job performance and 39 percent approve, which is the president's lowest approval rating in the Quinnipiac poll since he became president.

Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that Obama needs to come up with a solution "sooner rather than later." He said earlier that he hadn't ruled out supporting Upton's bill, but his spokeswoman told CNN he's now opposed to it.

Former President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, is exerting his own pressure on Obama to make good on his promise.

"I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they've got," Clinton said Tuesday during an interview with the website OZY.com.

Following Clinton's remarks, House Speaker John Boehner released a statement saying, "I applaud President Clinton for joining the bipartisan call for President Obama to keep his promise to the American people. These comments signify a growing recognition that Americans were misled when they were promised that they could keep their coverage under President Obama's healthcare law. The entire healthcare law is a train wreck that needs to go."

Adding his voice to Clinton's, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told CNN that both Democrats and Republicans "need to be open to constructive changes to make this law work better."

For its part, the administration has rejected Upton's bill. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the Republican proposal would not just allow people to keep their current plans, it would also allow insurers to keep selling so-called "junk" plans and other coverage options that don't meet even the minimal standards of the Obamacare law.

But he stressed that the president "has instructed his team to look at a range of options" aimed at finding an alternative for people who are losing their plans, Carney said.

Republicans plan to continue to focus on the law's problems Wednesday when the administration's chief technology officer, Todd Park, is expected to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the disastrous launch of the Obamacare website.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued a subpoena late Friday ordering Park to testify after the White House rebuffed earlier demands from Issa to question him.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

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