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News Wrap: Health care law surpassed original goal of 7 million enrolled, White House says

April 1, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama announced this afternoon that 7.1 million people signed up for health insurance before last night’s deadline. That tops the administration’s original goal, and it came despite glitches on the healthcare.gov website.

The president marked the achievement with an event in the White House Rose Garden.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Millions of our fellow citizens know the economic security of health insurance who didn’t just a few years ago. And that’s something to be proud of. Regardless of your politics or your feelings about me or your feelings about this law, that’s something that’s good for our economy, and it’s good for our country. And there’s no good reason to go back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There was no immediate word on how many of the enrollees were previously uninsured or how many have paid their premiums.

And beyond those questions, Republicans charged again the health care law is doing more harm than good.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R, Ky., Minority Leader: All across the country, our constituents are having an unpleasant interaction with Obamacare, whether they can sign up for a policy or not. What they’re discovering is, of course, higher premiums, higher deductibles. Many of them are losing their jobs. And so it is really a catastrophe for the country, both for the health care providers and the consumers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The total number of 2014 enrollees is expected to go higher still. Officials have said applicants who began the enrollment process, but weren’t able to complete it, will likely qualify for an extension.

For the first time in more than seven years, no American troops died in Afghanistan during an entire month. Casualties have been declining as the size of the U.S. force dwindles to 33,000. The Pentagon said today the last month with no U.S. fatalities in the Afghan war was January of 2007.

The official death toll from the Washington state mudslide reached 27 today, while the number of people missing was lowered to 22. Meanwhile, Governor Jay Inslee reported that damage from the slide has reached $10 million. He asked for a federal disaster declaration.

Bad weather again hindered the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. Eleven planes returned to their base in Perth, Australia, without finding anything. And the head of the search effort warned, it could drag on for a long time.

John Sparks of Independent Television News went out with one of the planes and filed this report.

JOHN SPARKS, ITN: Personnel and planes from five nations have gathered here, and the recovery of the stricken jetliner now their collective responsibility.

But they have made little progress. Still, nobody’s giving up. Crew members from this Australian Orion have already made eight attempts to find debris from Flight 370. Yet all they have found so far is bad weather and plenty of false leads.

SMOKEY DAWSON, Flight Lieutenant, Australian Air Force: There’s been multiple sightings of objects. It’s just, the problem is, they haven’t been able to confirm whether or not they’re related to the aircraft. And that’s the difficulty we have.

JOHN SPARKS: Flight Lieutenant Dawson provided an example. They saw this yesterday.

SMOKEY DAWSON: Can you tell what that is?

MAN: No.

SMOKEY DAWSON: Neither can I. You have got to try and I.D. it, but it’s a tradeoff between identifying something and continuing with the search as well.

JOHN SPARKS: These are not ideal conditions to conduct a search operation. In fact, the pilot’s just called the weather shocking. The visibility is poor. The swell is high. And that doesn’t make it easy to find debris. It’s a pretty bumpy ride as well.

The aircraft bounced around 350 feet above the water, and the crew did their best, trying to pick out objects on the surface, but they didn’t see much, a few fishing buoys and a pod of whales. Once again, there was no sign of MH370.

Their work was painstaking and professional, but 10 Squadron’s latest mission offered little in return, no debris no evidence of a Boeing 777 that’s disappeared without a trace. Still, the Australians and their Orion will be back up there tomorrow.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For the first time, evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan will be allowed to live in their former homes. More than 100,000 people fled the 12-mile hot zone around the plant after an earthquake and tsunami wrecked three nuclear reactors in March of 2011. As of today, 357 people were allowed to go back to an area where radiation levels are deemed safe. It was not clear how many would decide to make the move.

NATO member countries ordered a halt today to all civilian and military cooperation with Russia. They also agreed to consider sending more arms and troops to parts of Eastern Europe. It’s a reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and troop buildup near Eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, Moscow sharply increased natural gas prices for Ukraine. The move puts new pressure on the financially struggling nation.

In economic news, U.S. auto sales picked up last month. Chrysler reported a 13 percent increase in sales. Ford, Toyota and Nissan all reported single-digit gains. General Motors was up 4 percent, despite a series of safety recalls.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 75 points to close at 16,532. The Nasdaq rose 69 points to close at 4,268. The S&P 500 added 13 to finish at 1,885.