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It's All Politics
Wed November 13, 2013
Wednesday Political Mix: Obamacare IT Officials Face Issa
Good morning, fellow political junkies.
Pressure continues to rise on congressional Democrats with every new story about someone whose health plan was cancelled as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
A big story Tuesday was former President Bill Clinton adding to Democrats' psychic pain during an interview in which he essentially said President Obama should make good on his promise that Americans could keep health insurance they liked. He was saying something many Democrats already knew. But coming from him, one of the best Democratic political strategists of recent decades and the spouse of a potential Democratic presidential nominee, it made an impression.
With that, here are some of the more interesting pieces of political news or analysis I wanted to share this morning.
- If Obama administration officials have figured out how they're going to square the circle of allowing people to keep health insurance policies that the Affordable Care Act effectively bans, they're not widely sharing their solution. But they did share their resistance to the notion of letting people keep policies deemed substandard. White House press secretary Jay Carney said that idea isn't seen by administration officials as "fixing the problem" as the New York Times' Michael Shear and Robert Pear reported.
- Meanwhile, congressional Democrats seemed so eager for a way out that even someone as high in the pecking order as Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., second in the House Democratic hierarchy, didn't initially dismiss out-of-hand a House Republican bill to let people keep health policies facing cancellation, as I reported in NPR's "It's All Politics" blog. (Note that the New York Times has Obama "in a bind" while I place Democrats "in a vise." Feel free to supply your own torture metaphor.) Later, after Carney's comments, a top Hoyer aide said her boss, indeed, opposed the GOP bill, as Roll Call's Emma Dumain reported.
- Some of the Obama administration's top information technology officials will get a free stress test, though not the kind their doctors would necessarily recommend, when they appear Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, D-Calif. Issa is unquestionably one of the Obama administration's chief congressional antagonists. Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown set the stage for the hearing in a piece that flicks at one of Healthcare.gov's biggest mysteries: how could White House officials be caught so off-guard by the the Obamacare website meltdown when others inside the administration seemed to know it was a disaster waiting to happen.
- Anticipating Issa's hearing, the Washington Post reported that Healthcare.gov is unlikely to be fully working by November's end, contrary to assurances by top Obama administration officials. The software problems are proving more intractable than earlier thought, especially when it comes to handling high traffic volumes.
- One takeaway from The Hill's two-part series on what it calls the death of immigration reform is that Obamacare helped kill it. The Hill's Russell Berman reports that after Obama delayed the employer mandate in the health care law, House Republicans who were part of immigration negotiations saw that as an omen that the president might do the same to border-enforcement provisions in a new immigration law and that was that.
- For the second time in recent weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by Oklahoma to overturn anti-abortion laws that courts in that state had found unconstitutional. In its latest action, reports the Wall Street Journal's Jeff Bravin, the Supreme Court turned aside Oklahoma's request that the high court overturn a state court's ruling that pregnant women seeking abortions first submit to ultrasounds of their fetuses.