November 19, 2013, 12:58 pm
Dems launch O-Care defense in House
By Pete Kasperowicz
After weeks of Republican attacks against the failed ObamaCare rollout, Democrats on Tuesday launched a campaign on the House floor to defend the law by describing how it's helping constituents.
The effort is being coordinated by House Democratic leaders, who are encouraging Democrats to praise the law, both before and after votes.
A late Monday email from the office of Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said Democrats need to counter the "negative spin" about ObamaCare in the last few weeks.
"We want to highlight the positive reactions to the law in an effort to drown out some of the negative spin from Republicans and coverage in the media," that email said.
"It is critical that we stay on message, so we are asking all who plan to participate in floor speaking opportunities this week to talk about the ACA [Affordable Care Act]."
A handful of Democrats spoke in favor of the law Tuesday afternoon, and said thousands of people are being helped by the law despite the problems with the rollout.
"In states where governors embrace the Affordable Care Act and set up a high-functioning website, the fact of the matter is enrollment is exceeding expectations," said Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), referring to his home state of Connecticut. "Over 13,000 have enrolled in the first six weeks, and the pace of enrollment is accelerating."
"This law is working," said Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.). "I continue to hear scores of success stories from California."
Republicans countered by saying the law is proving to be a disaster. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) reacted to Courtney's comment that Republicans are "hysterical" over the law.
"My constituents are hysterical about these broken promises," Harris said, citing a letter he received saying a man's son cannot get a job because of the health law.
"This law is hurting Americans with high premiums and cancelation notices," added Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.).
One Democrat acknowledged problems with the law, and compared it to a recent episode in which he was driving in a car with his son when the car ran out of gas. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said complaining about the situation in the middle of the street wouldn't have helped solve the problem, but said Republicans are essentially doing just that in response to ObamaCare's problems.
"There are some problems. I think it'd be crazy for anybody to say there are not problems," he said.
"We would be infinitely better off if we gave our time to repairing the problems that are there, as opposed to standing in the intersection talking about how bad it is."
Democrats last week were forced to admit that the ObamaCare rollout has been a failure so far because of a clunky website and new standards in the law that led insurance companies to cancel millions of insurance policies.
President Obama held an hour-long press conference in which he admitted these problems, and announced an administrative fix that allows insurers to continue insurance plans that otherwise would be canceled. But even that plan was criticized by some insurers as a last-ditch plan that would only complicate the issue further, and some states have said they will not allow these plans to be continued.
The rollout has led some Democrats to join Republicans in their call for a legislative fix. Last week, the House passed a bill that would allow companies to keep their current plans, and 39 Democrats joined the GOP in passing it.
In the Senate, seven Democrats have put their name on a similar bill, but Senate Democrats have not said they would consider it.