Democrats not likely to back House GOP Obamacare bill
By: Jennifer Haberkorn and Seung Min Kim
November 14, 2013 09:40 PM EST
House Democrats say that President Barack Obama’s move to address a broken promise of Obamacare should prevent large numbers of defections on a GOP bill coming to a vote Friday that addresses the wave of health insurance cancellations.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the chief vote-counter for House Democrats, said a “large part” of the Democratic Caucus would vote against the GOP bill called the “Keep Your Health Plan Act.” Democratic leaders had earlier feared up to 100 members might vote for the bill sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton.
The White House on Thursday night said the president would veto the Upton bill if it reached his desk. “[P]olicies that reverse the progress made to extend quality, affordable coverage to millions of uninsured, hardworking, middle-class families are not the solution,” a statement said.
House Democrats said the closed-door briefing with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Thursday had stopped the bleeding — on this specific measure at least. They said McDonough had assured them that the administrative fix to Obamacare would work to allow people to keep their health plans, as Obama had promised.
“For now, the president’s actions are sufficient and I think his actions will resolve matters that most of our members are concerned about,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who said Wednesday that he was likely to support the Republican legislation unless the administration coughed up a fix, said on Thursday he will probably vote against the Upton plan.
“Most people feel like they’ve kind of turned a corner as far as accepting some responsibility and offering” an alternative, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said of the administration. He had been highly critical of the White House after a rocky meeting on Wednesday but said he now thought that only 20 to 25 Democrats would cross over to the GOP plan on Friday.
The White House urged House Democrats to oppose the Upton bill, and the House Democratic leadership says the GOP proposal is just another strike from the GOP in its long drive to unravel the Affordable Care Act. The Michigan Republican’s bill would allow plans that had been slated for cancellation because they didn’t meet Obamacare coverage requirements to be extended through next year — and not just for the current customers. Democrats said that will undermine the new Obamacare insurance exchanges.
House Democratic leaders are preparing a procedural move, a motion to recommit, that would allow Democrats to vote to restore the president’s “keep your plan” promise without backing the GOP bill on Friday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the proposal would be “complementary” to the White House fix.
Yet not all Democrats agreed to oppose the Republican measure. Some fear that voting against it could expose them to campaign ads that say they voted against allowing Americans to keep their health insurance — once in 2010 and again in 2013.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said he was still weighing his decision. He said there were “encouraging comments on what the president has decided to do” in the session with McDonough, but he’s waiting to hear from insurers in his district. Two Democrats who are top targets of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, indicated that they too were still considering voting with Upton.
The Upton bill’s mere presence — and the threat of a campaign ad associated with it — put significant political pressure on House Democrats, who until Thursday were split on whether to offer support in light of Obama’s apology. Earlier this week, they threatened to join Republicans if the White House didn’t come up with an alternative to meet the president’s promise that people could keep their health plans.
House Republicans and their conservative allies are largely aligned behind the Upton bill. The GOP leadership expects significant support from its members, and a spokesman for Club for Growth, the influential outside group that has sunk past efforts from House Republicans on Obamacare, said it supports this legislation.
Whether the White House action will solve the plan cancellation problem is far from clear. The fix “could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” said Karen Ignagni, president of industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. “Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace.”