Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 26, 2015

Democrats Face Dilemma on the Upton Obamacare Bill

President Barack Obama’s “if you like it, you can keep it” promise has House Democrats facing a dilemma as they look ahead to a vote on Republican legislation to preserve existing health plans.

“There will be defections,” a House Democratic leadership aide predicted.

The bill, sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., would give insurance companies the option of continuing all existing health plans for a year. It’s considerably weaker than a proposal by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., that would require insurance companies to continue offering existing plans, but the political power of the legislation may be no less potent: Are you in favor of keeping the president’s promise or not?

The problem for the White House, and House Democrats, is this: Keeping those old plans undermines the new insurance exchanges and reforms at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. They’d much rather have people enter the new exchanges and see them take advantage of the options for comprehensive benefits with the law’s other attributes — such as no more penalties for pre-existing conditions and no more gender discrimination — intact. That has presented two additional problems: The website woes have made signing up difficult for many, and others, particularly those making too much money to qualify for subsidies, are seeing higher premiums than they had under their old plans.

In a House Democratic Caucus conference call at the end of last week, leaders, unsurprisingly, said that they would urge a “no” vote on Upton’s bill.

Though the vast majority of Democrats will likely side with leadership, a sizable contingent of vulnerable caucus members — mostly freshmen — are expected to side with Republicans in bids to win over their more moderate-minded constituents ahead of the 2014 elections.

It’s a challenge to Democratic leaders who pride themselves on maintaining party unity — in stark contrast to GOP leaders who regularly struggle to corral their rank and file — and who hail passage of the health care law as their premier legislative accomplishment.

Both factors were weighing on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., when legislation came to the floor this summer to delay implementation of the individual mandate by one year. Pelosi lobbied members hard to oppose the bill, even as targeted lawmakers argued that their re-election chances hinged in part on that vote.

In the end, 22 Democrats voted “yes,” a number one senior House Democratic aide said would probably have been higher without Pelosi’s work.

That same aide told CQ Roll Call that a similar scenario could play out this week, and it could be even more of a challenge for Pelosi. Millions have received cancellation notices from insurance companies, despite the president’s promise that they could keep their health plans if they like them, “period” — leading to a rare presidential apology and turbocharging political pressure for a fix in both parties.

“The president has apologized, but that apology will be hollow unless Washington Democrats work with us to actually stop this train-wreck,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. “If they do not, the American people will certainly take notice.”

In conversations with CQ Roll Call, many House Democratic aides said that it was crucial to allow “front-liners” to do whatever it takes to keep their seats in the next Congress and not be bullied into upholding the party’s ideological purity.

One staffer for a senior House Democrat suggested the party should rethink broader Obamacare strategy and back some changes to the law.

Democrats, he wrote in an email, have “bitten the reins and been the work horse for this administration time and time again. We’ve defended health reform to the hilt with the promise that once it went into effect, the pain would have been well worth the struggle.

“It may be time to rally around some adjustments to the law,” he continued. “If the president can’t or won’t aggressively confront the insurance industry for exploiting this loophole, we’ve got to be proactive going into ’14.”

But a House Democratic leadership aide countered that the need for party loyalty, and a unified commitment to defending the health law, couldn’t be overstated. While some House Democrats might feel it “safe” to vote for the Upton bill because they don’t see it going anywhere in the Senate, a few Senate Democrats like Landrieu are starting to rally behind similar legislation.

“Members are going to have to realize that, to some extent, you can cause problems in the Senate if there is considerable House Democratic support on some of these things,” said the aide of the adverse effect those Upton “yes” votes could have if they provide leverage to Senate Democrats.

Of course, with the bill not scheduled to come to the House floor until the end of the week, a lot could change. The current legislative text could fall prey to conservative amendments, vaporizing Democratic support. The White House, which is exploring an “administrative fix” to address the dilemma, could unveil a plan that satisfies Democrats and, in their estimation, renders Upton’s bill irrelevant.

In the meantime, front-line Democrats are staying mum on their stances: None of the offices of the 22 Democrats who voted for the individual mandate delay would tell CQ Roll Call how the lawmakers planned to vote come Friday.

Correction 10: 46 p.m.

An earlier version of this post misstated the way 22 Democrats voted on legislation this summer to delay implementation of the individual mandate by one year. They voted “yes.”

  • bensweeney

    Republicans stay away… let it burn… you will get blamed…

    • goodbyecountry

      You are so right. With a different kind of president, a Bush or a Clinton, the opposition could have worked successfully. But not under Obama, whose express goal is to destroy the Republican party. Aside from that, the man knows no loyalty to anybody other than himself, takes all the credit, and places all the blame. For Republicans, trying to work with him is a lose-lose.

    • AnybodRecognizeMyCountryLately

      They won’t stay away and they will get burned again. What’s this Upton deal anyway, for one year? Please, period.

      • bensweeney

        Upton seems to be a decent guy….but that is not what one needs when dealing with radicals… A nice front but deal with them as they play… Pound Obamacare everyday.. Period

    • Elton Willis

      Problem is Republicans are going to get the blame historically either way. It’s already started. The Libs are crying Republican obstructionism and the liberal historians will write Republican obstructionism and …

      • bensweeney

        Hi Elton..All true but in this case the Public have no blurred lines on who supported what….also the Democrats uses of vicious words and descriptions of the so called Tea Party was so vile that those words will come home to roost…. in this case as the people feel the pain of the consequences of supporting the Democrats some patriotic Dems will see the light…meanwhile one must understand that the radicals have seized power and need to be opposed…. nothing is below them.. We need to be prepared …

        • Elton Willis

          I agree with you 100% and I hope the Democrats have politically hobbled modern progressive liberalism forever. Still, 50 years from now if the education system remains in the hands of ivy league dimwits they will manage to somehow re-write history and blame Obamacare failure on Republican obstruction in a “If you’re not with us you’re against us” kind of way.

          • bensweeney

            “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” Period….

      • Texmom

        Republicans need to articulate some alternatives and fixes. Make their 4 year opposition clear. MORE MANDATES will not fix the ACA.

  • DisgustedwithElitism

    They can run but they cannot hide. We already know who they are (the ones with a D after their names on the ballot).

    The tar is already melting over the fire and we are gathering the feathers.

  • Detroit

    Upton is one of the three biggest RINO Congressmen from Michigan. Rogers and Camp are the other two.

    I’m just setting the record straight in case any poster claims that Upton is a conservative. He isn’t. Period!

  • rambothedrughunter

    Voters: forget about how your congresspersons voted on the Upton amendment or some similar attempted bandaid, just remember how they voted on the PPACA! No takebacks, no reneging. You broke it, you own it. There’s no magic super glue to put back together again. So sorry!

  • Katherine

    I don’t understand the phrase “bitten the reins”. Does he mean “bit in the teeth”? That still wouldn’t make sense.

  • Craig Richards

    We want the plans we had pre-Obama. Each year in the O term, my catastrophic policy had more non-catastrophic stuff added (at a huge cost) that we could have paid out of our HSA account, had I chose to.

    • ohioan123

      ObamaCare also REDUCED the amount we can contribute to our HSA’s too.

      • nemcrna

        Obama HATES HSAs. Too much control in the hands of the people. He wants YOUR money circulating in the name of social justice

  • PremiumMind

    So now there is a Democratic movement to make changes to Obamacare, but isn’t that what Republicans were asking the President to do 1 month ago, to negotiate on Obamacare?…

    • nemcrna

      Yes. Just one month ago these very same democrats chose to shut down the government rather than have this very conversation

  • Peps at

    “The president has apologized”? I listened to that apology. He’s sorry people have lost their plans based on what he told them. He is most definitely not sorry that he lied to them … because that lie was necessary to force the legislation through in the first place.

    Like his Democrat predecessor, Mr. Obama is wonderful at parsing his falsehoods.

    • StoutCortez

      He’s sorry that they misunderstood what he said and got themselves in a jam. Basically, “I’m sorry you made a mistake.”

    • forwhatitsworth

      More like; “I’m sorry I got caught.”

  • Attila

    Since Democrats 100% supported Obamacare in lockstep with Barack Obama, I would suggest assessing their true-intentions by their earlier votes in favor of Obamacare (not by how they vote when they’re scared of losing their seats).

  • jjr153

    Sorry folks, it’s already too late. those plans (individual plans that people liked) are gone and not coming back. Those plans did not meet mandated standards and insurance companies would be in violation of the law if they offered them. The employer supplied plans will be gone next year. They have to go because they do not meet DemocratCare standards, like making 50 and 60 year old couples buy abortion coverage, prenatal and maternity care. Just wait until summer 2014 when employers start dumping their plans forcing employees to go the health exchanges because employers can’t afford the price increases required to bring their current plans up to mandated standards.

    This bill essentially sets up a dual track health care insurance system. If this bill passes, it will be vetoed by the Tyrant Obama. DemocratCare cannot survive in a two track system.

    • StoutCortez

      While the Community Organizer is still in office, repeal would require the unlikely override of a veto. In the meantime, we have to hope Obamacare simply falls apart when those zillions of young people don’t buy policies.

    • andrewp111

      Obozo will propose a different fix in his SOTU Address next year. He will propose expanding Medicare and Medicaid to everyone, along with the required tax increases and an obligation of all doctors to take Medicare and Medicaid. He really has no choice. It is either that or full repeal, and he will never accept repeal. So the only option is Forward! (his re-elect campaign slogan). We now know what his slogan meant, don’t we?

  • ohioan123

    The head project manager for ObamaCare claims he didn’t know about security risks, before the roll-out.
    Unbelievable, isn’t it? How does that even happen??
    And what else don’t they know?

  • sinz54

    It’s not because of party loyalty.

    Dem health care experts have said that Obamacare’s financial projections were based on the assumption that all those affluent healthy folks would switch into Obamacare plans.

    If they don’t, then insurers will have to raise their premiums on Obamacare plans to compensate–and then those plans will become too expensive for Americans to want to buy.

    So Obama’s promise that “If you liked your health care plan, you can keep it” was not only a lie, but a lie based on the need for the opposite to be true for Obamacare to work. Obamacare can’t work if you keep your existing individual plan.

    But that’s a tough sell, telling all those folks whose plans were canceled that they have to sacrifice for the greater good.

    • andrewp111

      Gotta break eggs to make an omelet.

      • John Ramsey

        Is that why there’s so much egg on Obama’s face?

      • Redleg7

        What the F#ck does that mean Andrew???? You mean the millions of American families that got deliberately screwed by this Administration and had their Health Care Insurance ripped away? Those broken eggs Andrew?

  • Ed Taylor

    In 2014 & 2016, it will be time for Democrats to ‘take their medicine.’ They lied to votes about saving $2500 per year on health care costs, keeping their doctors & insurance, and about the unaffordable premiums & deductibles.

    Voting to allow voters to keep their insurance one additional year will not stop them from being swept form office.

    By the time the 2016 general rolls around, millions more voters will have lost their employer provided coverage as employers drop the plans. Individual plan holders will have lost theirs in time to vent their dismay in the midterms.

    Bye-bye Democrats. Enjoy your political exile.

  • Nixonfan

    So the new Democratic talking point is that “insurance companies are exploiting this loophole”. No, they are following the language of the legislation, which could have been drafted differently, and which the GOP wanted drafted differently. This latest talking point is just another Democratic lie. Obama and Pelosi had to cancel existing individual policies because they were individually underwritten and thus cheaper than policies underwritten on a “community” basis. They needed those higher premiums to pay for all of Obamacare’s freebies. Somehow the poor schmucks whose cheaper policies are being cancelled weren’t supposed to notice. ACA is truly a Democratic suicide note.

    • andrewp111

      Not so sure the ACA will kill the Dems. The 2014 campaign will decide this. The Democrats now have no choice but to push ahead with a plan to go to full-on Single Payer. They must make the 2014 campaign on this issue. They are locked into a narrow channel from which there is no escape, so they must push Forward!, no matter what the cost.

      • Baroo00

        And how is that message going to work:

        “The government so screwed up the implementation of ObamaCare that we’re going to get rid of the insurance companies entirely.”

        Count me a skeptic…

      • Nixonfan

        Single payer = universal Medicaid. Americans consider choosing your doctor and hospital to be a “right”. They will never go for Medicaid. I hope the Dems decide to go that way because it will wipe them off the political landscape.

  • andrewp111

    You can’t fix the unfixable.

  • karl brodersen

    So let’s get this straight.
    Obama ” says ” he’s sorry – and will do what he can to change his lie to truth – but then the leadership is encouraging Democrats to vote against the law that would do that.
    Politicians are scum.

    • moderate Guy

      Correction, liberals are scum; liberal politicians are doubly so.

      • porchhound

        We had better take a hard look into our Republicrat ranks…we have plenty of scum there too unfortunately!

  • Leftshot

    The Upton bill is FAR superior to the Johnson bill. With the Johnson bill, ALL existing plans will disappear from the marketplace within 3-5 years. This is because without the ability to market to new subscribers the number of people on these plans can only erode and eventually fall to the point where it isn’t economical for the insurance company to continue to carry the plan. Just as important, as Americans get displaced from their plans or people shop for plans for the first time, the Johnson bill severely limits their choices, and as we’re already seeing, the REAL substandard plans are generally the ones in the government exchanges.

    If Obamacare is so great, it should be able to withstand competition from the private market. If it isn’t, then it should be eliminated by choice. President Obama keeps saying he’s for free market solutions. Now is his chance to prove it.

    NOTE: I well know we are a LONG way from a free market, even without ObamaCare and have much to do to remove the shackles that prevent the markets from producing better solutions.

  • Tater

    If someone is a heroine addict, then that would be a pre existing condition that can’t be turned down or even charged at a higher premium. If someone is a tobacco addict, then that is cause for higher premiums. What’s up with that?

    • Perry Logan

      Heroin addict.

      • HopyMcChange

        I’m addicted to Beatrix Kiddo….does that count?

        • Tater

          Addicted to whatever. Obama threw the insurance companies a bone with allowing tobacco users to be gouged. Municipalities have been on their teets for years with onerous sin taxes and get away with it. Those people will pay whatever the price to continue their addiction.

    • htuttle

      They had to accommodate all the Liberals.

  • grannycares

    Are democrats turning against Obama for his “MISLEADING” of American citizens? (Polite way of saying LYING!)

  • goodbyecountry

    Sorry Dems, Obamacare is going to be a noose around your necks. Many congressclowns voted agains the express wishes of their constituents to ram thing monster through. Now you’re stuck with it.
    So telling that congress didn’t want their own staffers in the exchanges. Shame!


    How about the Democrats start telling the truth. That would be a good start.

    • ohioan123

      All those Republicans who refused to vote for ObamaCare to begin with
      look very, very wise, too!

  • Mygoodness

    Time to hoist them all on their own petard

  • Ronny Raygun

    Where are all the lib defenders?, er, paid OFA supporters?

    • Samuel Adams

      I get the OFA emails sent to a dummy account. Always recon your enemy. It’s like a stirred up anthill over there–not sure they know what to do. Though the number of emails I’ve gotten exhorting everyone to join the “truth squads”….yes Virginia they have “truth squads” has gone up dramatically. I sort of feel bad for them, for a nanosecond or two.

      • Ronny Raygun

        Yeah, its obvious that the ones who show up on a number of Zerocare related discussion boards really have no idea what to do except mindlessly defend in the face of overwhelming data and/or just serially lash out with primitive insults.

  • goodbyecountry

    In Obamacare, we have a program where the federal government has turned enemy of people who had health insurance they liked. The government has actively conspired against them and caused the loss of their health insurance. These are hard-working people who paid their own way, sacrificed for the “greater good.”
    Never thought I’d see the day in America.

    • forwhatitsworth

      Sad to say, but this has been coming for a long time. If you talk to people that lived in communist or socialist countries, they’ll tell you that’s the general theme, “the greater good”.
      Sacrificing for a common good is not the problem, Americans are a vary generous people, Americans sacrifice for others all time.
      The problem occurs when a small group people get to decide whom is going to do the sacrificing and how much they are gong to sacrifice. And what part of our lives are subject to this “greater good” sacrifice.
      This is not unique to Obama, he’s not the cause (merely a symptom). The cause is the fact too many people don’t vote, too many people don’t want to get involved, and too many people are in denial or simply too lazy to become informed.
      So that’s the bad news— it’s our fault.
      Here’s the good news— we can fix it.

      • goodbyecountry

        You’re right, many of us are willing to make sacrifices so other people can benefit. But I can’t accept being lied to or treated like a child because the information ‘might be too complicated” for us – which is what the O. administration is saying.
        And you are so right about a small group (of elitists who exempt themselves from their own rules) making these decisions.
        Great post.

        • forwhatitsworth


    • ohioan123

      And those who buy Individual Insurance have paid for it themselves,
      100% out of their Own pocket!

  • rtcdmc

    Folks, the Progressive playbook says that everyone has to wait until the system is in such a complete shambles that the only way out of the mess will be single payer. That’s what Obama really wants.

    • forwhatitsworth

      Agreed, but the problem is Obama thinks he’s a lot smarter than he really his. And he thinks Americans (at least Americans living outside NY, DC, & Chicago) are a lot more stupid than they really are.
      Single payer is the goal and the law is specifically written to remove the private sector from the healthcare insurance industry. But the success of that plan means you have to understand how America works.
      The problem with King O and his liberal court is that their life-experiences revolve around college campuses and activists rallies.
      But most people live their lives based on what they can afford— not on what they can get others to pay for.

      • ohioan123

        Obama and Democrats are unconsciously incompetent.
        They didn’t even know –what they didn’t know.

    • LuapLeiht1

      Too bad the rocket blew up on the pad…

    • ohioan123

      Democrats had their chance, they blew it, along with the money.

      No more chances. We don’t want any plan that’s government-run, either.

  • Aaron_Burr

    Actually, while this legislation may be problematic in the short term, strategically the Democrat Representatives and Senators biggest nightmare might end up being when (if?) the web site actually works. Then, masses of voters are going to see how much they are going to end up being charged for these wonderful new, “affordable” health care plans that in the end are going to end up costing them far more for way less. The particularly cynical ploy has been using subsidies to produce small drops in monthly premiums paid but which are then massively offset by higher annual deductibles. Even with subsidies this will represent a huge net cost increase for most families. This year it’s just the individuals but next year it’s going to be all of the businesses that Obama let off the hook this year. And just in time for the 2014 elections. The Dems have good reason to be nervous.

  • surfcat50

    I hate to be the one to point this out but isn’t Senator Landrieu’s opposition to 0bamacare simply racism?

    • ohioan123

      Landrieu voted Against Mike Enzi’s bill in 2010 that would Prevent people
      from losing their existing insurance, too.

      She’s a big fat, hypocrit. Now she’s trying to do exactly what Enzi proposed 3 years ago!

  • heyyou111

    how can any changes be made to this law? I thought it was settled law and passed by the senate and the house and signed by the President. No changes can be made. It is settled.. right?

    • Samuel Adams

      Well I can tell you that they are going to have a devil of a time putting the cancellation genie back in the bottle. Problem is the insurers, once they knew these blocks of business had to be cancelled to comply with the law ceased any go forward actuarial analysis for pricing purposes and the uncertainty around customer retention levels or mix will make it exceptionally difficult to reinstate. If they do, bet the insurers make some kind of loss recapture from the Feds part of the deal.

      A half dozen Saturday Night LIve writers locked in a room for a week with 2lbs of good weed and unlimited pizza could not have come up with this.

      • LuapLeiht1

        Or unlimited weed and 2 lbs of pizza…

        • Samuel Adams

          Then would just sleep for the week

          • LuapLeiht1

            You’ve got a higher tolerance than I, brother. 2 pounds?? I’d be asleep for a year.

  • EdWalton

    The bill won’t do me any good; I just sent the check for the obama-care approved policy.

    • LuapLeiht1

      That’s cool. I got my cancellation notice yesterday.

      • EdWalton

        My bill was in fact a cancellation notice; they didn’t waste much ink on the virtues to justify the $600 premium increase of my new obama-care approved policy.

  • bluesdoc70

    Hello..White House?..Uh, What’s the law today? Dunno, he ain’t out of bed yet and then he’s golfin’…Try catching the Carney follies..he might know something.

  • fare_the_well_obama

    Upton should not be proposing anything. Let the “law of the land” stand as is until we have the Senate and White House back. Then we can deal with this properly. Why is Pelosi still here? She is a vampire zombie.

  • WhatMightBe

    Now Obozo wants to allow folks to keep their healthcare plans that they were happy with?

    Why the hell did we need ObozoCare then??????????

  • SolidBro

    I thought people were going to like this when they read the bill after it was passed. What happened?

  • ohioan123

    This is a major problem. Many people with Individual Insurance have already signed new contracts with their insurance company for plans that comply with the
    new federal mandate, fees and taxes…. at a higher price, too.
    If Obama now allows those with Individual Insurance to keep their plan… will we be able to go back to our old plan, which was cheaper?

  • WhatMightBe

    Gee everyone who signs up for ObozoCare is now realizing that their premiums are double and their deductible is now triple.

    Seems that providing free and unlimited ObozoCare to 35 million deadbeats does cost money……………….

  • Wes

    Can someone please explain to us how there was ‘gender discrimination’ ??? Women’s coverage being higher priced because it costs more to provide service to them is NOT discrimination.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...