Reid: White House should have shared credit for O-Care fixes
By Alexander Bolton - 12/19/13 06:00 AM EST
Democratic senators are unhappy the White House didn’t give them any credit for key fixes to ObamaCare.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently reproached President Obama in private on the issue, arguing Obama should have given his colleagues more praise.
“I did communicate to him that there have been things done by the White House that improved the healthcare bill and those fixes were suggested originally by my senators and they got no credit for it. I thought that was improper,” Reid said in an interview Wednesday with The Hill.
Reid didn’t specify what ideas Senate Democrats had offered to the White House.
Obama suggested in public remarks on Oct. 30 that his administration had received little constructive feedback from critics.
“If folks had actually good ideas, better ideas than what’s happening in Massachusetts or what we’ve proposed for providing people with health insurance, I’d be happy to listen. But that’s not what’s happening,” he said.
Democratic senators had several meetings with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior administration officials to put together a rescue plan for ObamaCare.
The law’s ailing website and other problems set off a near-panic in November among Democrats who remain worried that the law could cost them the Senate majority in next year’s midterm elections.
Reid said the coordination between the White House and Senate Democratic caucus had been inadequate during the height of HealthCare.gov’s problems.
“There was a period of time there where there were no questions that were answered because they were so overwhelmed with trying to get that program fixed,” he said.
He said being available to the Senate Democratic caucus means responding to their phone calls and having meetings on the Hill.
Democratic senators and the White House have had a series of meetings on the issue.
In early November, Obama met at the White House with Democrats facing re-election next year to discuss their concerns. The entire conference met with McDonough on Oct. 31 to vent their frustrations.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who could find herself in a competitive race next year, asked senior officials what the administration’s contingency plan was in case HealthCare.gov’s technical problems were not fixed by December.
They said they were working on something but declined to share details, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the meeting.
Reid says recent staff changes at the White House will likely improve coordination with the Senate Democratic caucus.
Obama brought back Phil Schiliro, his former head of legislative affairs, to coordinate implementation of the ACA. He met with senators up for reelection on Wednesday.
Obama has also promoted Katie Beirne Fallon, a former senior aide to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to head his legislative affairs shop; and recruited former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta.
While Democratic senators say the administration has made progress since October, they caution that much work still needs to be done.
A group of centrist Democrats is working on a package of legislative changes, such as a mandate requiring insurance companies continue providing popular health plans that fail to meet the law’s standards. They want to move it next year.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said last week he is urging Reid to allow a vote on the proposals.
Reid said he would review the issue in January.
“We’re gone now for a couple weeks. We’ll see what that brief time does then we’ll take a look,” he said.