Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

New Year, Old Headaches for Democrats on Obamacare Bills

Henry A Waxman

At a closed-door caucus meeting, Waxman urged his Democratic colleagues to vote against the bills coming to the floor Friday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democratic leaders, busy with a public relations blitz over Republicans’ refusal to extend expired unemployment insurance, aren’t terribly preoccupied with the pair of Republican bills coming on the floor Friday to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

They aren’t whipping colleagues against the measures, nor are they spending time running interference among the moderate members who might want to vote “yes” to score political points back home.

“There is a long list of critical items the House should take action on … rather than wasting time on unnecessary bills,” shrugged a senior Democratic leadership aide.

Democrats might be able to ignore the bills this time around, but they are up for 11 months of intermittent headaches over the same issues: House Republicans say they have no plans to let up their attack on Obamacare anytime soon, and Democrats should be prepared to confront many uncomfortable votes on the law between now and the midterm elections.

“Holding Democrats accountable for their support for this awful program is part of our responsibility,” said an aide with House Republican leadership.

Several months ago, House Republicans traded in their full repeal strategy for one of “targeted strikes” at specific portions of the health care law, recognizing that the former tactic had no chance of success in the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House.

Like the measures that came before them, the two bills to be voted on by the week’s end don’t stand much chance of getting signed into law, either — they would, respectively, mandate that victims of security breaches through get notification within two days, and that the Obama administration publish regular reports on insurance enrollment numbers.

But Republicans are aiming to use Obamacare bills to back vulnerable Democrats into corners and to lure others who can’t deny that certain areas of the health care law do, in fact, need fixing.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has typically held an ironclad grip on members when it comes to the core of the heath care law, but Democrats have come to accept the reality of defections on smaller-ball bills.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York is inclined to forgive “frontliners” their “yes” votes on GOP health care bills.

And at a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting on Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., delivered a pitch to members asking that they oppose the bills coming to the floor on Friday, while acknowledging that there would be some who would feel compelled to support one or both of the measures.

The question is just how many party breaks there will be on Friday? Some Democrats might still be reeling from the meltdown in November, where discontent with the health care law’s rocky implementation reached a fever pitch and 39 members voted with Republicans on a bill to counteract President Barack Obama’s broken, “if you like it, you can keep it” promise.

If it turns out there aren’t many Democratic “yes” votes, it could be because the angst from a few months prior has dissipated.

“The reality is, a dysfunctional website was bad for a month or two, but now we are seeing the website work, more and more people enrolling, and the tide somewhat turning,” said one staffer for a senior Democrat.

It also could be that the underlying effects of the two bills are easier to translate for members on the fence, from a messaging standpoint. Democrats who are against the measures point out that while they might seem like good ideas on the surface, the requirements would pose undue burdens on government officials and actually hamper the administration’s ability to run programs under the health care law effectively.

“They are gotcha bills. They are bills that have titles that have nothing to do with what they will actually do,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California on Wednesday. “Members are taking a look … [and] we told members to look closely.”

But Republicans are still holding out hope that Democrats will weaken under the pressure of an onslaught of Obamacare bills, on Friday and going forward.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Daniel Scarpinato is especially confident.

“It’s going to prove impossible for any Democrats who voted for or supported ObamaCare to run away from that support in 2014, no matter what they do,” he said in a statement to 218. “The disarray among House Democrats on this issue only highlights how desperate they are to revise history.”

  • Bill Chelmowski

    “seeing the website work, more and more people enrolling” = more people screwed by ObamaCare

  • moderate Guy

    Get the Demokrat bastards on record supporting this nightmare; they will pay the price in November.

  • notthemobnazietc

    Don’t let Dems and President Obama bailout the insurance companies with our taxpayer money. Obamacare has already cost too much for less.

    • palmvos

      alas.. the companies got it written in the original bill. so there is nothing that can be done.. until November.

      • notthemobnazietc

        They can repeal that portion. The President keeps changing the law at his political will with out Congress approval. Congress needs to do their job.

        • Layla

          Do you mean actual OVERSIGHT? When is the last time anyone in Congress did that?

          The Democrats are going to burn for Obamacare and so will the Republicans for the lack of oversight and guts to correct this obamanation.

    • Jesse4

      Go look up the term “bailout” and see what a donkey you just made of yourself.

      • notthemobnazietc

        Okay subsidies.

    • strongmind

      but, but commander zero promised that if they went along with his program, they would be well-taken care of. just like all the rest of his big campaign contributors.

  • Julie Cosgrove

    It is interesting (revolting) to see the dishonesty and cultist behavior that comes from modern “progressives” regarding ObamaCare. This group of people have absolutely no shame, honor, decency or concern for real truth. Only their agenda of government control over everything matters to them. Who they hurt in the interim means nothing to them!

  • zl28

    LOL…..Let these loser democrats defend this pos.

  • bobman85

    so notifying the victims that have had a security breach because they where forced to signed up for obamacare is a bad idea to democrats, because it puts to much of a burden on government employees, tell that to the victims. Just more proof democrats dont give a damn about the american people.

  • docdave88

    Keep deluding yourselves democrats.

    This system is doomed to fail because it is a terrible idea, not because of a poorly done web site although, in candor, don’t you think, if you’re being honest, that someone should be investigating how almost a billion dollars was dropped into one of the Queen’s friend’s pockets and we got junk? Just askin’.

    But go ahead, democrats. Keep up the good face. November’s comin’.

    The problem, as I see it, is that it is likely that it will be a bumper crop of republicrats and, frankly, I’m tired of seeing two parties with no distinction.

    I hope that EVERY incumbent gets primaried and any who are not Conservative (with a capital C) get sent to real jobs.

    just sayin’.

    y’all have a wonderful weekend now, y’hear

  • Wise words …

    I wonder how many people will have their identities stolen when the Obamacare website is hacked?

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