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Lawmakers demand answers, fixes with health care law


Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When it comes to the rocky rollout of the health care law, both sides are urging fast action from President Barack Obama’s administration. Republican opponents of the law are demanding “quick answers” to their questions about the difficulties with the launch of the online exchange website, while Democratic supporters are calling for quick fixes to the problems.

The Morning Line

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., threatened to subpoena Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius if she does not provide details of the troubles with the HealthCare.gov system by 5 p.m. Monday.

“It is clear you and other high-ranking HHS officials either provided false testimony to Congress or did not know how badly the development of the HealthCare.gov was proceeding. Either scenario, if accurate, is inexcusable and demands accountability from your department,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to Sebelius on Friday. “Your failure to provide Congress information that would shed additional light on these problems is a troubling indication that you are refusing to hold people accountable for this costly and failed enterprise.”

In an appearance Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Issa urged the administration to comply with the request. “We’re looking for quick answers so that we can on behalf of the American people straighten out as much as can be straightened out that’s above the water, which is the website, and the 90 percent that’s below the water like an iceberg, that are the other problems in Obamacare.”

The California Republican added that he believed Sebelius must fix the problems with the site, or resign. “They had unlimited money, six hundred million dollars, just to do this part, and billions to do the other part. The president has been poorly served in the implementation of his own signature legislation,” Issa said. “So if somebody doesn’t leave and if there isn’t a real restructuring … then he’s missing the point of management 101, which is these people are to serve him well and they haven’t.”

Democratic lawmakers voiced support for Sebelius on Sunday, but made clear they also wanted to see the administration move swiftly to implement changes to improve the system.

“I think she should stay. And I think she will get the job done,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told ABC News’ “This Week.”

“I think it’s too early to start placing blame,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said on “Face the Nation.”

Shaheen has called for a delay of the March 31, 2014 deadline for open enrollment.

“The rollout has been a disaster. And so what I am proposing is that we extend the period in which people can enroll, so we can make sure we get as many people who want health insurance able to enroll and be able to be covered,” she said Sunday.

The Obama administration has said the problems with the site would be fixed by the end of November, making a delay unnecessary. But Shaheen said Sunday that she believed the current deadline should still be extended.

“The law said that people were going to have six months to enroll,” Shaheen said. “That they would not have to be subject to penalties until the end of that period, and that’s the concern.”

Manchin, meanwhile, has raised the idea of a one-year delay in the penalty for not purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“The transition period of one year is very reasonable and doable. And the fines don’t [go] in effect until 2015,” Manchin said Sunday. “We’re still working through it.”

There was yet another sign of trouble with HealthCare.gov on Sunday when a data center that hosts the site went down, freezing online enrollment in all 50 states.

David Morgan and Sharon Begley of Reuters have more on the latest glitch:

The outage that started in the early hours of Sunday caused the data center to lose network connectivity with the federal government’s data services hub, an electronic traffic roundabout that links the online health insurance marketplaces with numerous federal agencies and can verify people’s identity, citizenship, and other facts.

Without the hub, consumers are unable to apply online for coverage or determine their eligibility for federal subsidies to help pay for insurance premiums. On Saturday, Sebelius praised the hub’s ability to perform complex calculations in quick time as an example of a successful segment of the system.

Sebelius is scheduled to testify before a congressional panel on Wednesday, a session that appears to grow more difficult by the day as the list of troubles with the online exchange gets longer.

CLINTON CAMPAIGNING

Former President Bill Clinton urged gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s supporters to get out the vote at a hall packed with about 300 supporters in Dale City, Va., Sunday.

Clinton called Republican candidate Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli “an ideologue,” adding, “Once you get people all torn up and upset, steam coming out of their ears, people will show up and vote,” NewsHour Production Assistant Cindy Huang reported.

In many ways, the former president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also campaigned with McAuliffe this month, have much resting on McAuliffe’s success in this race. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker profiled the Clintons’ close and friendly ties to McAuliffe:

If McAuliffe wins the Nov. 5 election, the Clintons will have a trusted ally controlling one of the most important presidential swing states. But McAuliffe’s actions as governor would also reflect upon the Clintons, positively or negatively, far more than the actions of any other officeholder. McAuliffe’s history of using his deep political connections to benefit his private business portfolio would be put under a microscope again if Hillary Clinton runs for the White House.

Would McAuliffe, who has never held public office, emerge from the Clintons’ shadow or still be subordinate to them? How would he balance the interests of Virginia with the interests of the Clintons when they inevitably conflict? And would his legacy always be seen through a what-does-it-mean-for-Hillary prism?

On Sunday, McAuliffe repeatedly referred to his as the “mainstream ticket,” positioning himself against what he called the ideological values of his opponent.

With 9 days to Election Day, the race is ripe with political celebrity campaign stops. While the Clintons have shown their support for McAuliffe, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul joins Cuccinelli on the trail Monday in Fairfax.

The latest campaign swing for the Republican allows him to emphasize his libertarian record — one that may prove useful in a race that includes third-party candidate and potential spoiler libertarian Robert Sarvis, who polled as of Oct. 23 at 10 percent. His goal is to engage the right wing and tea party base enough to win their high turnout on Election Day.

Like McAuliffe and Clinton, the tea party movement’s strength could be tied to Cuccinelli. Philip Elliot writes for the Associated Press:

At a time when the national GOP is divided between its ideological and pragmatic wings, a Cuccinelli victory here could validate tea party power not just in the Republican Party but within the broader electorate. A defeat would show the insurgent group’s limits and would give fodder to the GOP establishment arguing that nominating ideological purists is not a pathway to success.

Conservative Norman Leahy and former state Democratic Party Chair Paul Goldman surmised in a Washington Post op-ed that Cuccinelli’s fortunes have dropped in the race for reasons more complex than the shifting demographic of Virginia to a more liberal population. They say a poor campaign strategy, less cash and a wounded incumbent in Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell helped lead Cuccinelli to underdog status.

McAuliffe leads in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, with 46 percent to Cuccinelli’s 39 percent of voters.

LINE ITEMS

  • Shaquille O’Neal endorsed Chris Christie in the New Jersey Republican’s re-election bid next month. “I don’t endorse many politicians. But Chris Christie is different,” O’Neal says in a campaign ad.

  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., penned two op-eds over the weekend. He wrote about the impact of the government shutdown in Arizona and joined Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in criticizing the president’s policies in the Middle East.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Republicans in Iowa Friday that the key to victory in 2014 is an energized and active conservative base. Cruz also went pheasant hunting with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, while in the Hawkeye State.

  • The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty examines West Virginia’s evolution from blue state to red.

  • NewsHour Political Editor Christina Bellantoni was named to this list of the 14 Twitter feeds to “boost your political IQ.”

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Mark Shields and David Brooks joined Judy Woodruff on Friday to discuss the finger-pointing over the rocky rollout of the health care exchange website and revelations the National Security Agency had spied on allies in Europe, including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Watch the full segment here or below:

  • Jeffrey Brown spoke with Armen Keteyian, co-author of the book, “The System,” which details the costly practices of college football.

  • Paul Solman tagged along with a group of New York doomsday preppers for a weekend of survival training.

  • Missed the NewsHour over the weekend? Catch up by watching Sunday’s show here and Saturday’s show here.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

TOP TWEETS

Christina Bellantoni and Politics Desk Assistant Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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

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