A broken promise, plunging poll ratings and the disastrous start for HealthCare.gov have rattled President Barack Obama’s party, and the impatient rank and file want solutions, not just an apology, from the commander in chief.RELATED: First Official Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Released by Administration
“There’s a brewing revolt among Democrats,” said one member of the House Democratic Caucus who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to describe the scene at Wednesday’s closed-door meeting, where members vented their frustration at White House officials for the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted Wednesday that the administration remains on track to fix the troubled website by the end of the month, and he said Obama would decide “sooner rather than later” how to ease the burden on the millions of Americans whose health insurance policies have been canceled in spite of his oft-repeated promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”
But Obama’s fellow Democrats have started to lose faith, and time is of the essence: The House will vote Friday on a GOP bill that would allow insurance companies to revive scrapped health insurance policies. Unless Democrats are certain that a remedy is on the way, many will be inclined to vote “yes.”
Even progressive Democrats and staunch allies of leadership had strong words for the White House officials dispatched to meet with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, according to sources in the room — and the White House is sure to hear another dose of angst Thursday, when aides meet with Senate Democrats.
“We’ve got a problem, and we gotta fix it, and we’re looking for what the White House response is gonna be,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who still hasn’t decided how he will vote on the bill sponsored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.
“I think in diplomatic terms we had a frank discussion,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. “I think there was a lot of frustration and, in some cases, anger vented towards the White House for their continued ham-fisted approach. It’s not just their credibility that’s on the line, but it’s our credibility.”
“Why can’t we call people who know how to do these things, who do it for corporate America, and say, ‘We have a website, fix it?’” asked Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y. “Maybe I’m being simplistic, but can’t we call Bill Gates up and say, ‘Take care of this?’ Or go to a college dorm and say, ‘You guys, you invented Yahoo, can you take care of this?’”
And that Nov. 30 deadline?
“Don’t come here telling us it will be fixed by Nov. 30,” Serrano said.
Many Democrats had kept their concerns about the health care law to themselves because they were promised that the political price of passing a piece of monumentally controversial legislation would be worth it in the end. No more.
Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., said it’s not clear whether the White House is up to the “heavy lifting” required to bring the law to fruition and have it function the way its advocates intended.
“Nancy had to push this through,” Moran said, referring to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who shepherded the health care law to passage in March 2010 as speaker. “There was a long period where I know our leadership felt that the White House could have been promoting this better and also clarifying what they meant to a better extent that they did. And while we can do the lifting of the legislation, they have to do the heavy lifting of the implementation. That’s their job.”
But expressing exasperation and taking legislative action against Democratic leadership and the White House — both contingents oppose the Upton bill as another Republican attempt to undermine Obamacare — are two separate things, and that is requiring House Democrats to do some soul-searching.
“On the one hand, I am concerned that by voting for it, it undermines the basic reforms we worked so hard to get in the ACA,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., who said he was “wrestling” with how he would vote on Friday. “And I have to weigh that concern against ‘but you promised.’”