Obama looks to halt Democratic dissent

BY Terence Burlij  November 18, 2013 at 9:20 AM EDT


President Obama met with CEOs from across the health insurance industry at the White House Friday. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama and his team are running out of time to fix the problems with the Affordable Care Act, as pressure mounts from Democratic allies in Congress who are losing patience with the disastrous rollout of the law. The Morning Line

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” last Friday on a 261 to 157 vote, with 39 Democrats breaking ranks to support the measure put forward by Michigan GOP Rep. Fred Upton. The number of defectors could have been even higher had the president not taken to the White House briefing room last Thursday and proposed his own solution for letting the millions of Americans who have had their policies canceled in recent weeks be able to keep them.

The president may have bought himself a little time with last week’s mea culpa, but unless the glitches with the HealthCare.gov site are smoothed out in the next two weeks, the administration could be facing another, and perhaps more forceful, wave of Democratic backlash against the program.

The National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar notes that concerns among Democrats are not limited to members in red states who are up for reelection next year:

More than anything, politics is about self-preservation, and the last two weeks provided numerous examples of how public opinion has turned so hard against the law that even its most ardent supporters are running for the hills. It’s not just red-state Democrats, like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, distancing themselves from the law. It’s blue-state senators like Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen — and top blue-state recruits like Michigan’s Gary Peters and Iowa’s Bruce Braley, who voted for GOP legislation Friday that the White House said would “gut” the law. Nearly every House Democrat in a competitive district joined with Republicans to threaten the law. Without a quick fix, those ranks will grow.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., acknowledged Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the launch of the federal online marketplace had been “terrible,” but she insisted that Democrats “stand tall” in support of the law.

Republicans, meanwhile, reiterated their calls that Democrats scrap the ACA and start over.

“The president said that he fumbled the rollout. It’s time for a timeout, which I’ve been calling for, so that we can go back to the drawing board and really talk about bipartisan solutions for health reform in the country,” New Hampshire GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte said during an appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Julie Pace of the Associated Press writes that the battle over the health care law has stakes not just for the initiative itself, but the rest of the president’s second-term agenda:

Democrats in both the House and Senate worry the health care problems could dim their re-election chances next year. Republicans are saddled with historically low approval ratings and an internal debate over the direction of their party, though the heath law woes have proved a lifeline following the GOP’s much-criticized handling of the government shutdown.

With Republicans sensing an opportunity in Obama’s free fall, the president is sure to face a struggle in getting their support, particularly in the House, for White House priorities such as an immigration overhaul or broad budget deal.

Without success on other fronts to counteract the health care failures, Obama will have fewer chances to change the public’s view that Washington, and the president himself, are ineffective.

Looking to turn the tide in his favor, the president will address supporters of his campaign on a conference call Monday hosted by the group Organizing for Action.

“I want to cut through the noise and talk with you directly about where we’re headed in the fight for change,” Mr. Obama wrote in an email encouraging supporters to take part.

The president will find a friendly audience among campaign loyalists. The real test will be whether he can make inroads with Americans who have soured on his job performance, or Democrats who have grown increasingly anxious over the rocky rollout of the law. To win over those groups, the president will have to deliver results, and not just remarks.

LINE ITEMS

  • The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration will deem the online marketplace a success if 80 percent of eligible Americans are able to sign up for plans through the site.

  • The insurance commissioner in Washington, D.C., was forced out of his post last week after criticizing the president’s executive action.

  • Political researchers are digging up 1990s-era attack fodder to use against Hillary Clinton if she runs for president, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Alexander Howard writes for the Daily Beast that all government technology projects, even websites, aren’t disasters like HealthCare.gov.

  • The National Security Agency faces an almost 1,000 percent increase in open records requests from people asking if the organization has been spying on them, according to USA Today.

  • The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reports on a feud between Wyoming GOP Senate candidate Liz Cheney, and her sister, Mary Cheney, that started when Mary watched Liz criticize same-sex marriage on “Fox News Sunday” and then erupted publicly on Facebook.

  • Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn declared seven counties disaster areas after they faced violent storms this weekend.

  • Scott Walker proclaims that he would be the president of the Paul Ryan fan club. One hitch: Walker doesn’t think Ryan would make the ideal 2016 presidential candidate; that candidate would be someone with a state executive resume like …. Walker.

  • From Politico Magazine, a post-mortem on why a campaign allowed Michael Dukakis to put a helmet on his head and pose for the tank photo op.

  • Recovery from the recession has led to an interesting disparity, the Labor Department reports: Women have recovered the jobs that were lost, yet men haven’t.

  • Rep. Paul Ryan, visiting Iowa, told the crowd at Gov. Terry Branstad’s birthday fundraiser that he and Mitt Romney may have won the 2012 presidential election if voters had understood the failures of Obamacare.

  • Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley spoke at a fundraising dinner in New Hampshire as he continues to gear up for a 2016 presidential bid.

  • Vance McAllister won the all-Republican runoff for a congressional seat in Louisiana. He had earned the endorsement of the Duck Dynasty family and had campaigned in support of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

  • The Denver Post “decodes” the players and conspiracy theories of the Kennedy assassination, which happened 50 years ago this Friday.

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee set a record for fundraising in an off-election-year October and outraised its Republican counterpart.

  • Jackie Kennedy’s pink Chanel suit, stained by her husband’s blood at the assassination, will remain hidden from the public until 2103.

  • Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, chairman of the — yes, this is real — Congressional Bike Caucus, hopes to make the U.S. House a certified bike-friendly workplace.

  • D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray will sign a bill allowing people who can’t prove they immigrated to the U.S. legally to get drivers’ licenses.

  • A town in Utah that recently voted to allow alcohol sales highlights a political divide driven by Mormonism in the state.

  • The Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center will combine to build a new museum in Richmond.

  • Microsoft will open an “innovation center” in D.C.

  • The late Doris Lessing was critical of British imperialism and turned down an offer from the government to become a dame.

  • NewsHour Political Editor Christina Bellantoni will be guest hosting the Kojo Nnamdi Show Monday from noon to 2 p.m. The topics are workplace bullying, attempts to forge peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and reflections on the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Nnamdi has been away because his brother was tragically killed last week in Guyana.

  • Miles, a 5-year-old cancer patient, had the best day after San Francisco transformed into Gotham City and he became the Internet’s cutest hero.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

TOP TWEETS

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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