Democrats On Capitol Hill Starting To Get Very Nervous About Obamacare

Congressional Democrats are not very pleased with the White House right now.

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. Aerial

With the ongoing problems with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act threatening to stretch into December notwithstanding promises from the Obama Administration, Democrats on Capitol Hill are starting to get nervous:

Congressional Democrats are quickly losing patience with the White House as the deeply flawed Obamacare rollout drags on.

The broken website and President Obama’s broken promise that “if you like the plan you have, you can keep it” have sent Democrats searching for ways to distance themselves from the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Democrats are flocking to introduce bills they say would preserve Obama’s pledge, and White House officials met with House Democrats on Wednesday in an effort to push them away from supporting a similar Republican measure.

The Democrats’ response: If you don’t want us to vote for the GOP bill, give us something else to support—before Friday’s vote.

That’s a tall order for the administration. Obama said last week that he had directed his team to look for a way to address the wave of cancellation notices hitting consumers in the individual insurance market. But no solution has been announced, and policy experts say there aren’t any easy options.

The House bill, sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., would allow consumers to keep certain health care plans longer than they can under the Affordable Care Act.

A policy analysis from the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the bill would undermine the health care law, not help it. But in the midst of such bad publicity, that concern hasn’t resonated with rank-and-file Democrats who feel boxed in by Obama.

“We weren’t making grandiose claims. He doesn’t have to run again, I don’t know why he needs to make such grandiose claims. Some of this stuff is just gratuitous rhetoric,” Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., told BuzzFeed on Wednesday, referring to Obama’s promises that Americans could keep their health plans.

In the Senate, Democrats are rushing to put their stamp on the frustration over canceled insurance policies. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has introduced a more aggressive version of Upton’s bill—hers would require insurance companies to keep offering plans, not simply allow them to.

She picked up support from the Left when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., agreed to cosponsor the bill.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced his own “keep your health care plan” bill on Wednesday—another sign of Democrats’ anxiety.

Democrats’ openness to the Upton bill in the House and similar measures in the Senate suggest they might be willing to help pass a bill that would substantively delay some of Obamacare’s benefit mandates. If they’re angry enough to actually push for a vote in the Senate, insurance companies and the White House would face a serious challenge trying to beat back changes they believe would undermine the complex systems of the ACA.

Buzzfeed’s Kate Nocera is finding the same frustration:

As the problems with Obamacare seem to grow by the day, anxious House Democrats have reached their tipping point.

Millions of their constituents have received cancellation notices from insurance companies, despite President Barack Obama and Democrats repeatedly promising that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” under the health care law. Meanwhile, the troubled continues to be plagued with issues, and the administration is struggling to get it fully functional before the end of the month.

Now, many House Democrats, who just weeks ago were ready to stick by the White House through the troubled rollout, now have no problem making their displeasure with the administration known.

“The frustration is they are setting up deadlines they know they can’t meet. They are not going to meet the Nov. 30 deadline, I would bet anything on that. If I had a farm I’d bet the farm on that,” said Virginia Rep. Jim Moran.

Moran also faulted the president for promising that Americans could keep their health care plans, arguing that it put Democrats in a difficult spot. He claimed that House Democrats did not make such promises, although many, in fact, did repeatedly before and after the health care law passed.

“We weren’t making grandiose claims. He doesn’t have to run again, I don’t know why he needs to make such grandiose claims. Some of this stuff is just gratuitous rhetoric,” he said.

The House is set to vote this week on a bill introduced by Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton that would grandfather all current insurance policies even if they don’t meet the standards of Obamacare through 2014. Though Democratic leadership and the White House is opposed to the bill, it is expected that a fair number of Democrats will end up supporting it anyway.

“There’s overwhelming frustration, and I don’t know if I’d call it a rift, but there are a lot of people who feel like they will vote for the Upton bill unless there’s some viable alternative offered by the administration, like tomorrow,” said Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth.

It’s not surprising that there would be frustration on the Hill from the President’s supporters. Just a month ago, the party was riding high the wake of the Republicans bungled and foolish effort to defund Obamacare or delay its implementation to the point where they pushed the Federal Government into a needless Government shutdown that saw their approval numbers sink to new lows. Now, it’s as though the situation has reversed itself. Congressional job approval has plummeted to its lowest level ever according to Gallup, and the newest Generic Congressional Ballot shows that the Democrats have lost the lead that they had in the wake of the shutdown. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama’s own job approval numbers have plummeted along with the number of people who say that they find him trustworthy. All of this can be tied into the Obamacare roll out, and the public reaction to the news of tens of thousands of people finding their individual insurance policies canceled at the same time that the online marketplace where they’re supposed to be able to go to shop for new insurance rendered largely non-functional for most people. In addition to abysmal enrollment numbers, this has led to a turnaround in the poll numbers heading into the 2014 elections that obviously makes incumbents up for re-election.

As it stands right now, it’s unclear whether either the Upton or the Landrieu bills will draw enough support from Democrats to make a big political statement, but the frustration among Democrats is really quite palpable right now. As I write this, there are reports that the President will be announcing some kind of administrative fix to address the issue of people getting kicked off of their policies during a White House appearance this morning. The details are unclear, but this is clearly an obvious attempt to undercut the possibility of large scale Democratic defections in the House or the Senate. Whether such a fix will be sufficient in that regard is, of course, an open question, but at the very least it will be seen as a tacit admission by the White House that the whole “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” meme that was used to sell the Affordable Care Act was, well, not exactly true. Honestly, that can’t help but have more of a negative impact on the President and his fellow Democrats. Whether, and when, that will turn around is unclear, but things are not looking so well for them right now.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Congress, Healthcare Policy, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    The proper word, I believe, is irrational panic.
    Obama has to get his thumb the Democratic Caucus…and fix the problems. That cannot be emphasized enough.
    Irrational…well…Jenos is irrational. Enough said.
    Panic…well…panic is never, ever, productive.
    Enough hyperventilating already.
    The fact is that enrollment doesn’t end until next spring…and it’s impossible to tell at this point how things are going until enrollment ends. If MA is any guide then all is OK.
    In the spring we will KNOW how many are enrolled and the percentages of healthy vs. sick…which all that matters to insurers.
    We can’t do anything about Fox News and the right wing entertainment complex and mindless parrots like JKB and Jenos and bill.
    But we can deal with reality instead of piles of hot steamy bullshit.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Or of course we can simply give up on Health Care Reform and go back to the previous model…which no sane person thinks was working.

  3. jukeboxgrad says:

    The underlying issue is that Obamacare exists because there is a problem that needs to be solved. And the GOP cannot present a GOP alternative to Obamacare because Obamacare itself is the GOP alternative.

  4. rudderpedals says:

    How can ye have any pudding if you don’t eat yer FUD?

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    “They were running the biggest start-up in the world, and they didn’t have anyone who had run a start-up, or even run a business.” So who could have seen that anything would go wrong?

  6. Todd says:

    I had an interesting conversation with one of my coworkers yesterday. He’s vehemently opposed to ‘Obamacare’. He’d like to see it go away. BUT, he does think we should keep the part about not excluding people with pre-existing conditions.

    When pressed about how to solve the problem for “free riders” who just wait until they’re sick to buy insurance, his answer was …. wait for it …

    “Well, the government would have to make some sort of rules to prevent that from happening”

    Mind boggling.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Democrats are gutless weasels who abandon any program they come up with at the first sign of trouble. Think for a second: What did the GOP do in 2004 when the insurgency in Iraq started heating up?

  8. walt moffett says:

    Now to see how this plays in 2014 elections, now that Obama has played the “put up or shut up” on the insurance companies.

  9. JKB says:

    To late to roll back the cancellations, rate increases, network thinning, etc. now. Contracts have been negotiated with providers, settlements to now defunct contracts reached, etc.

    The efforts on both sides to do flip the switch by fiat is just another example of government incompetence. And Obama, may today, just decide “settled law” is something to be cast aside by executive whim. hmmm. Rule of law? Or rule of whimsy?

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Obama has agreed to grandfather in the existing policies…new scam-level policies may not be sold.
    Will this placate the faux concern over those losing policies?
    Or will the ditto-heads just learn something new to squawk about from the right wing entertainment complex?
    I think we all know the answer to that.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    I think we need to be clear about what this means though.
    Most of those plans were being canceled because they did not meet minimum standards…they were basically scams. The insurance companies took peoples money…and if something happened they rarely paid off.
    So the right wing entertainment complex and the dolts who repeat everything they say…Jenos, JKB, bill…you know who you are…have argued that insurers should be allowed to contiue to fleece people…and now they will be able to.
    I find it interesting that anyone would be in favor of that sort of thing.
    But that’s what we’ve been seeing for a couple weeks now…and there it is.
    Next phony concern, please.

  12. JKB says:


    None for @C. Clavin, he’s unpleasant.

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Obama has agreed to grandfather in the existing policies… which he has no legal authority to do so by himself. There’s no such provision in ObamaCare, and that IS THE LAW OF THE LAND, as so many like to parrot.

    Plus, it’s too late for most of these insurance companies, who were complying with THE LAW OF THE LAND when they canceled those policies.

  14. James Pearce says:

    Funniest thing about this (okay, so it’s not funny) is that everyone is looking to Congress and the President to fix this. I’ve heard tell that they created this problem.

    But how come no one’s mad at their insurance company?

  15. James Pearce says:

    And there goes Jenos, plying us with tales of the plight of the insurance company…..

  16. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    So you are not actually interested in solving the problem you have been whining about like a little baby for weeks.
    Thanks again for proving what everyone thinks about you.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    You find the truth about yourself unpleasant?
    What do you think that means?

  18. becca says:

    @C. Clavin: John Boehner just went on the teevees to say our old system is the “best healthcare in the world”. Spit take!

    I am no fan of the ACA because I am a real fiscal conservative. Medicare for all, period.

    But the ACA debate has opened the eyes of a lot of Americans. Employer-based healthcare is running on fumes. How can a country that has become very familiar with “jobless recoveries” continue to believe in a system that tosses you to the wolves when you lose your employer-based insurance and can’t find another job, with or without bennies?

    What will be hiss-terical is when Boehner returns to his “JOBS!JOBS!JOBS!” schtick in the next few months and call for more tax cuts for the “job creators”.

    This man has complete trust in the utter stupidity of his base.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Shorter Jenos:
    Obama f*cked up.
    Wait…he wants to fix it…no…he can’t do that!!!!

  20. C. Clavin says:

    The question I have is if anyone will stand up and call him out on that. He should be ridiculed loudly. But probably not. Instead the right wing entertainment complex will stand up and applaud him for his lie. The Democrats…crickets.

  21. Woody says:

    Last month, everyone agreed that the GOP was in existential crisis due to the shutdown they were completely responsible for.

    Truly, the GOP will have an awful 2014. Look! the polls prove it!

    This month, the Democrats are in existential crisis due to the poor implementation of ACA enrollment which they are completely responsible for.

    Truly, the Democrats will have an awful 2014. Look! the polls prove it!

    (Though it’s astounding how each Congressional caucus lives down to their detractors’ expectations – and yet will be re-elected with room to spare)

  22. rudderpedals says:

    Democrats in Congress appear so convulsed with bug-eyed fright that they refuse to listen to any kind of measured weighing of cost and benefits. They are saying things that sound like stock quotes from movie scenes featuring ignorant, terror-stricken townspeople forming a lynch mob.

    Chait being very good on the remarkably misguided yet effective FUD.

    There’s nothing here that 500ug of Ativan can’t fix

  23. Stan says:

    The amazing thing about the Affordable Care Act is the complete lack of interest in the media about the millions of people in the south and elsewhere who won’t get Medicaid because of the hatred Republicans and Libertarians have for the poor. Have well off people in this country always been this way? Has the media always been this much in the pocket of the rich? I think the answers are yes and yes, and it’s deeply disheartening.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    OK, everybody. Here I repeat my suggested health care program:

    Single payer NHS for everybody from 0-21 years of age. When you turn 21, you make a decision whether to stay on the program (and start paying the necessary taxes for it) or you get off the program.
    For those who are not on the NHS, you’re totally on your own. You get to deal with whatever Teh Free Market shovels out. No regulation of private health insurance providers. It will be everything that the Libertarians love.
    If you have no insurance and you go to a hospital, too bad. Even for emergency care.
    If you’re on the NHS, the government gets to tell you to eat your veggies, make rude comments about your avoirdupois, and yes, have Death Panels (no, we’re not going to do heart surgery on an 85-year old because we’ve got better places for the cash.) It is not automatic that on the NHS you will get top-notch treatment with the latest drugs. You’ll get something that works. But you may have to wait for non-emergency surgeries, be told “we’re not going to do anything until you lose 40 lbs”, and similar. You will have a certain level of duty to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Illnesses that are directly related to risky activity may not be covered and you will have to purchase from Teh Free Market separate coverage. Aside from these caveats (and minimal co-pays), the NHS will cover everything.
    If at any point you want to drop off the NHS system and go your own merry way, please do so. But you don’t get any refunds for any of the taxes you paid.
    For those who are not on the NHS and want to participate, you will have to do the following: demonstrate that you are at least as healthy as someone of your age and sex on the NHS. You will also have to pay for the “overpart” of the taxes you didn’t pay. (The excess that younger members pay over their actual risks in order to support the older population.)
    If anyone wants further health care support, he/she can purchase it from Teh Free Market.

    This would give those of us who want a NHS system what we want, and should make all those “I can take care of myself!” libertarians jump with joy.

    Oh, and no, we won’t have Medicare or Medicaid any more.

  25. Todd says:

    @James Pearce:

    Funniest thing about this (okay, so it’s not funny) is that everyone is looking to Congress and the President to fix this. I’ve heard tell that they created this problem.
    But how come no one’s mad at their insurance company?

    And there you go, the root of the problem.

    The goals of the law, and the goals of the insurance companies who are integral to the law’s success are not aligned.

    The law wants to insure as many people as possible, as inexpensively as possible.

    The insurance companies are trying to figure out how they can still squeeze as much profit as possible out their customers, within the rules of the new law.

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    The broken website and President Obama’s broken promise that “if you like the plan you have, you can keep it” have sent Democrats searching for ways to distance themselves from the Affordable Care Act.

    Democrats distancing themselves from something that is already ineradicably linked with them is both a mistake and pointless. I like Atrios’ take on this:

    Whatever the merits of ACA, it is now something the Dems own. For decades I’ve watched Dems try to run away from things which have been surgically implanted on any politician with a D next to their name. It’s always bizarre and pointless. You’re the party of gay marriage, abortion, and Obamacare whether you like it or not, and it’s better to convince your constituents that you’re going to do good things for them than to try to convince them that you’re not a real Democrat. They can already vote for someone who isn’t a real Democrat. He or she is called a Republican.

  27. canadian in Texas says:

    Wow. The democrats are revolting. (I’ve said that for years).

  28. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    It’s also important to remember that this is/was a minor issue trumped up by a bunch of know-nothings who really only wanted something to complain about.
    The most important thing is to get the website fixed…pronto.

  29. JKB says:

    On the upside, for those whose insurance company is able to extend their old plan, they will get their cancellation notices next October (2014). Along with those in the small business plans. And those in the Obamacare plans will see their premiums rise because of the risk pool skewing.

    I don’t really see how that helps the Democrats in Congress who are less worried about right now and very worried about next fall.

  30. becca says:

    @Stan: Remember the Fairness Doctrine? Equal time? Let’s hear “conservatives” tie themselves up in knots explaining how getting rid of these protections means more “freedom”.

  31. Pharoah Narim says:

    I think people with an IQ over 80 understand that the President did not promise that people could keep insurance plans that don’t comply with the law. That would be illegal. The fact that this is even an issue shows how underdeveloped the nations fact finding mechanism (news media) actually is.

    This is akin to the atheist stumping the christian by opining that if God were so powerful–can He make a 3-sided square.

  32. David M says:

    @C. Clavin:

    So you [Jenos] are not actually interested in solving the problem you have been whining about like a little baby for weeks.

    He’s pretty into the GOP at this point, and doesn’t appear to care about anything but making the Democrats look bad. A problem that can be solved doesn’t help with that.

  33. JKB says:

    @Pharoah Narim:


    So you are saying “period” means doesn’t end a sentence but instead inserts caveats and addendums?

    Were you an English major? If so, with what regiment?

  34. David M says:


    Water is wet. Insurance companies cancel plans. Even ones people like. Even ones they could have grandfathered. This isn’t really news.

  35. grumpy realist says:

    @David M: If people REALLY want to stick with a market-driven system (I think they’re nuts, but anyway)….

    Then the best action to take would be enforced transparency. Of everything. I want to know the costs I will be charged up front. None of this “well, we’re not going to know until we open you up….” or “talk to your health insurance company.” I want to have flat rates made publicly available beforehand. I also want to know precisely what you are going to charge me for service X. None of this “oh, we gave you 3 aspirin, we’ll charge you another $150” method of jacking up costs during the treatment.

    I also want everyone who shows up for treatment X to get charged the same thing. None of this “we’re going to charge BCBS patients one cost, and people who are paying independently another cost.” (one reason why people who can’t get health insurance due to prior conditions get doubly screwed–they can’t take advantage of the lower prices health insurance companies have negotiated with the hospitals.)

    Also: all of this info has to be made available by hospitals on line. Changes in prices must immediately be posted.

    I swear, we have the most mind-boggingly idiotic health care system in the world.

  36. Tyrell says:

    The plan was built on a faulty assunption that young, healthy people would for some reason would abandon their current health plans to obtain coverage on the AHA. These are plans that they chose based on individual needs and costs. So you would have millions of young healthy working people paying for the medical insurance of those who aren’t working and aren’t healthy. Then somebody figured out that would not happen, so they had to figure out a way to force it to. That is why they came out with that phony “substandard” argument to force higher rates and private insurers out. It appears all those young, healthy working people aren’t buying this mess.

  37. David M says:


    Nothing you said makes any sense as a criticism of Obamacare, as everything you described is a criticism of employer provided health insurance or health insurance in general. Young healthy employees pay the same for insurance that their older and./or sicker coworkers.

  38. C. Clavin says:


    The plan was built on a faulty assunption that young, healthy people would for some reason would abandon their current health plans to obtain coverage on the AHA.

    The problem is that many young healthy people do not have insurance and thus do not participate in the market. Nationwide 27% of those 18-34 are un-insured.
    This is why Obamacare mandates everyone have insurance.
    And why Republicans, interested in sabotaging Obamacare, are encouraging young people to go un-insured.

  39. Stan says:

    @Tyrell: It’s not clear that the assumption was faulty. I haven’t seen any poll data, but I guess that a lot of healthy young people stayed uninsured or poorly insured prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act because of the cost of adequate insurance. Now insurance for the healthy young is more affordable, and there’s a penalty for noncompliance with the ACA which is small now but will increase over the years. So I think there’s a good chance that the law will work, particularly it’s been successful in Massachusetts.

    Speaking of which, one of the many failures of the press over the last few years has been its failure to report on how Romney’s health reform bill has done. From what I’ve read in Boston newspaper, over 90% of the Massachusetts public supports the law. Why the national press hasn’t reported this is a mystery.

  40. Tyrell says:

    Current private plan: $1,000 deductible, 80/20 copay, covers maternity, $10 generic prescription, $275 monthly premium
    Bronze plan under the AHA: $5,000 deductible, 60/40 copay, covers maternity, $19 generic prescription (after meeting deductible), $452 monthly premium.
    Which of these plans is substandard and why?

  41. David M says:


    You left off a couple incredibly important numbers:

    Yearly max out of pocket?
    Yearly / Life time max benefits?

  42. Pharoah Narim says:

    @JKB: So you want the government to force insurance companies to offer plans they no longer want to offer. Got it Commie.

    Maybe we can get him to also promise the American people their favorite car company will never discontinue their favorite model while he’s at it.

  43. Pharoah Narim says:

    @David M: Doesn’t matter to people like Tyrell. The only thing that matters is the price they pay for insurance BEFORE they actually need it… and stick the rest of the Taxpayer and Insurance payers with the bill.

  44. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: funny, and just how many people flock to our medical centers from around the world? i don’t mean the illegals either, the people with enough money to go anywhere……and where do they go? yes, our system sucks, but blame the ama/insurance regulation if need be- i don’t ever think of getting on a plane when my health is on the line. but back to reality, obamacare sucks- and the dems are feeling the heat now.

  45. An Interested Party says:

    funny, and just how many people flock to our medical centers from around the world? i don’t mean the illegals either, the people with enough money to go anywhere……

    That, of course, is the point which you seem to be too dense to see…sure health care in this country is great for everyone with big bucks…but what about everybody else…take a few moments to think about that reality…

  46. C. Clavin says:


    funny, and just how many people flock to our medical centers from around the world?

    I don’t know…got a link? or just emotional whiny responses?

  47. Ratt says:

    @C. Clavin: So, to hell with the country to hell with the 5 Million voting Americans that lost their Health Insurance as long as you sob’s win. Did I just about cover it ?

  48. Ratt says:

    @Pharoah Narim: So now, you are lying to cover the lie ? Obama said; ” If you like your health insurance you can keep it.” Seems pretty straight forward. Tell you what, why don’t you try convincing this BS to those 5 Million Tax-Paying Voting Americans that lost their Health Coverage because of ObamaCare. And if you claim that all 5 Million had ‘substandard’ plans you lost this argument right out the gate. Everyone of those 5 Million would have preferred to keep their plans versus being forced into ObamaCare. But, of course we all know Obama had to force these people off their plans to make them pay more in premiums so the Tax-Payer could cover the Health Insurance for the sick, pre-existing conditions, the Unions, Abortions, the Welfare Crowd and the Illegals.

  49. David M says:


    First 5 million didn’t lose coverage, they will just have different coverage now. And with subsidies, it’s a pretty good guarantee that maybe half of those won’t be worse off. Then of the ones who don’t get subsidies, some of those really will have better policies that they can actually use. Finally, the individual market had quite a few people that couldn’t get insurance at all before and really needed it. Getting insurance is probably very valuable to them, so they can’t be ignored when looking at the effects of Obamacare either.

    All in all, seems you don’t have a very good handle on the actual effects of a law.