WASHINGTON -- President Obama’s plan to allow insurance companies to continue offering canceled policies may not be enough to quell the uprising among Democrats on Capitol Hill and did little to reverse the continued Republican opposition.
As the White House team made another Hill visit Thursday to tamp down concerns among congressional Democrats, they were running into resistance from both sides of the aisle for having proposed an executive branch fix rather a legislative one through Congress.
Many Democrats want the chance to vote on the issue as a way to telegraph to their constituents they are listening to their concerns and standing up to the president.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who drafted a Senate bill that was gaining among Democrats, said after the president's announcement she was “encouraged" but would continue her legislative course.
“We will probably need to make a legislative fix,” said Landrieu, who is in a tough reelection battle.
The White House prefers to avoid turning to Congress, which could give Republican lawmakers another shot at killing his signature healthcare law. But Landrieu said legislation may be needed if insurance companies do not agree to extend canceled policies. If needed, she said Congress could compel insurers to extend the plans.
Other Democratic senators said they wanted a more permanent or longer-term fix.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) indicated Democrats he has spoken with are waiting to see how insurers respond to the president's announcement. But he added that many were inclined to move ahead with legislation.
"I think it's a matter of days," King said, referring to when Democrats might offer an alternative legislative solution.
In a nod to the growing anxiety among Democrats, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi promised that House Democrats would introduce their own symbolic legislation, which would be offered Friday. A Democratic leadership aide said Pelosi's plan was expected to mirror and support the president's.
“Think of a belt and suspenders,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday. "What the president will put forth will be one and what we will do will be the other."
Many were watching to see how House Democrats would react and whether the president's plan would be enough to sway those who are threatening to join House Republicans in voting for a GOP bill to address the problem of cancellations.
That bill, from Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), would not only allow insurance companies to continue selling canceled plans, it would not require them to notify consumers that those policies are considered substandard under the Affordable Care Act.
The president's plan, by contrast, would grandfather in existing policies that have been canceled for only one year.
The Upton bill is expected to face a vote Friday. House Democrats were unusually silent after Obama’s announcement, suggesting the White House had successfully cast enough doubt on the Upton bill to prevent large-scale Democrat defections.
On the right flank, Republican leaders dismissed the president’s action as too little, too late, and tea party-styled conservatives quickly categorized it as an overreach of executive authority.
“A decree brought down on high from President Obama is not how the legislative process works,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). “It is unconstitutional for the president to repeatedly bypass Congress and unilaterally change the law to fit his daily political objectives.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said he doubted the White House could make such a fix that would be “both legal and effective.”
“I am highly skeptical that they can do this administratively,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “The only way to fully protect the American people is to scrap this law once and for all. There is no way to fix this.”Lisa.firstname.lastname@example.org