Obama to make economic case for health care, pitch to young people

BY Terence Burlij  December 4, 2013 at 9:15 AM EDT


President Obama speaks on health care in the Eisenhower Executive Building in Washington Tuesday. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“If I’ve got to fight another three years to make sure this law works, that’s what we’ll do.”

President Barack Obama made clear Tuesday he won’t cede the ground he’s staked out on the Affordable Care Act, beginning what the White House says will be a three-week push to highlight the benefits of the law ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline for people to sign up for plans that start Jan. 1.

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Given the rocky rollout of his signature domestic initiative, the president pledged not to issue any “wild promises” going forward. At the same time, he sought to reassure Americans that improvements with the online exchange were taking hold.

“Do not let the initial problems with the website discourage you, because it’s working better now, and it’s just going to keep on working better over time,” Mr. Obama said. “Every day I check to make sure that it’s working better.”

Wednesday, the president has two events to keep up the drumbeat.

He’ll begin with a speech at the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Campus, a community facility situated across the Anacostia River from the Capitol in Washington. The event is organized by the Center for American Progress. Mr. Obama will outline how his health care law can help equalize income disparities and improve economic mobility, while making a renewed ask for Congress to increase the minimum wage.

Early previews suggest the president sees the week as “his chance to swing the focus back to the struggles of the poor and middle class.”

A White House official told reporters it could even serve as a tee up to the State of the Union address next year, adding: “The speech will provide a window into where the president will focus his energies over the next three years.”

Later, Mr. Obama will appear at the White House Youth Summit to speak with the 160 young people attending about enrolling in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. Young and healthy people are crucial to the law working well and to the exchanges remaining affordable, and the administration has been aggressive about showcasing states where enrollment among young people has been higher than expected two months into the rollout.

“The summit is an opportunity to explain the benefits of health law and tools for enrollment to key young influencers who have a strong reach among 18-35 year olds,” a White House official said.

The official told reporters that Mr. Obama also will showcase “how the law is already helping millions of Americans pay less for their preventive care services,” with 105 million Americans (47 million of those being women) having gained access to free, recommended preventive care services.

The president’s effort is being joined by Democrats in Congress and at the party committees ahead of the midterm elections next fall. Talking Points Memo’s Daniel Strauss looks at the plans House Democrats have to whack Republicans as just wanting to repeal the law without a plan of their own.

Adriel Bettelheim of CQ Roll Call writes in the CQ Morning Briefing that House Republicans are working to “reclaim the narrative” in the fight over the health care law. That includes hearings Wednesday held by four different committees and a vote likely Thursday on a measure to overhaul the patient litigation system.

Politico’s Seung Min Kim and Jennifer Haberkorn report that House Republicans want to laser focus on Mr. Obama’s pledge that “if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.” They write that the GOP is “hoping to replicate the uproar over canceled insurance plans, which has caused problems for millions of consumers nationwide and political headaches for Democrats.” More from the story:

Here is the gist of the GOP contention: Some insurers have limited the number of doctors or hospitals their customers can go to in their new coverage plans, and some people will have to get new coverage plans under Obamacare. While a limited inventory of doctors is typical of most insurance policies both on and off the Obamacare exchanges, it runs counter to the Obama administration’s promise that people won’t have to change doctors under the health care law.

By emphasizing voters’ relationships with their doctors, Republicans are trying to exploit the momentum sparked by Obamacare’s messy rollout via HealthCare.gov, and then by Obama’s foot-in-the-mouth pledge that everyone could keep their insurance. The new charge comes as the health care website has started to stabilize.

The argument is a twist on the insurance one — although it’s unclear at this point whether it can get as much momentum.

The New York Times’ Michael Shear reports that the administration is pondering whether the president should fire or punish anyone for the botched HealthCare.gov rollout.

The NewsHour reported on Mr. Obama’s renewed health care push, and then strategists Democrat Brad Woodhouse and Republican Ron Bonjean argued about the politics of the issue.

Woodhouse said Democrats are “not afraid of the politics of this.”

“There is a lot of good about Obamacare and we are proud of it,” he said. “The website is fixed. People are going to get signed up and people are going to like it.”

“We all know that the website is going to get fixed. What we are talking about now is the access and affordability of Obamacare,” Bonjean countered. “We were sold a lamp and they said look at this great paperweight.”

Bonjean also reported that the Republican National Committee will be mounting a “major digital push” this week to respond to the White House.

Watch the segment here or below:


LINE ITEMS

  • The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported Tuesday that lawmakers “are close to a breakthrough on a budget deal that would avoid another government shutdown next year and provide relief for sequestration cuts,” citing aides from both parties. But Roll Call’s Emma Dumain notes there are conflicting signals about whether negotiators are closing in on an agreement.

  • House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that he would not support a temporary funding measure that leaves the automatic spending cuts from the sequester in place.

  • Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the United States is “deeply concerned” about China’s establishment of an air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea, a message aimed at reassuring U.S. allies while leaving negotiating room as he heads to Beijing, reports the Washington Post’s David Nakamura, who is traveling with the vice president through Asia. The NewsHour’s report is here and Gwen Ifill looked at the escalating tensions between China and Japan with former State Department officials Kurt Campbell and Susan Shirk.

  • Politico’s David Rogers sounds the warning bell about lobbyist infighting threatening already tenuous farm bill negotiations.

  • House lawmakers Tuesday approved on a voice vote a proposal to extend a ban on guns that do not have enough metal to set off X-Ray machines or metal detectors. Senate Democrats, led by New York’s Chuck Schumer, want to attach a provision to the legislation that targets plastic guns that can be made with 3-D printers.

  • Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post reports that with the jobless rate hovering just over 7 percent, Republicans “are ready to let emergency unemployment benefits lapse on Dec. 31, immediately cutting off checks to more than a million recipients.”

  • The Post’s Sandhya Somashekhar details legal challenges to the health care law that critics see as a last, best shot at overturning it.

  • Speaker John Boehner blamed the Senate for the record-few bills passed during this session of Congress.

  • Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent to be his new immigration policy director. Tallent, who currently works at the Bipartisan Policy Center, previously served as Sen. John McCain’s chief of staff.

  • A three-week fast for immigration reform activists ended Tuesday as new advocates joined the hunger strike to pressure lawmakers to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, the Associated Press reports. Among the new fasters is Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass.

  • Former Vice President Dick Cheney told reporters at the National Press Club he was surprised by the Facebook criticism of his daughter and Senate candidate Liz Cheney’s stance on same-sex marriage.

  • Roll Call’s Nathan Gonzales writes that Republicans are fretting over House Democrats’ stockpiles of cash ahead of the midterms.

  • The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker finds Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., working to shine up his foreign policy credentials with a visit this week to London.

  • Dana Milbank attended the House hearing examining the president’s constitutional authority, and opines in his Washington Post column that the House GOP really wants to impeach the president.

  • And the Post’s Kathleen Parker has a surprising column arguing the GOP’s messaging on health care is flawed.

  • The D.C. Council approved a measure increasing the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour.

  • Republican-turned-independent D.C. council member David Catania, who once was the city’s only openly gay lawmaker, is exploring a run for mayor as Vincent Gray forges ahead with his re-election bid.

  • Mr. Obama’s Kenyan-born uncle, who ignored a deportation order more than two decades ago, was granted permission to stay in the United States, the AP reports.

  • Kantar Media looks at where the anti-Obamacare ad money is being spent.

  • USA Today produced this incredibly thorough and easy-to-navigate investigation of mass killings in the U.S.

  • Gawker rounded up all of the columnists at major newspapers and syndicates and averaged their ages.

  • Among the people participating at Larry Sabato’s University of Virginia Center for Politics 15th Annual American Democracy Conference Friday are Jeff Schapiro, Ellen Qualls, James Hohmann, Fred Barnes, Carl Cannon, Dahlia Lithwick, Michael Toner, Josh Barro, Joe Trippi and NewsHour Political Editor Christina Bellantoni.

  • Yes, those are goats! Thanks to NewsHour Reporter-Producer Allie Morris.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

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Katelyn Polantz and Aileen Graef contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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