Ummm … weren’t Democrats opposed to this just a couple of weeks ago?
Several Democratic senators are calling on the Obama administration to delay enforcement of the health care law’s individual mandate, joining their Republican colleagues in saying it would be unfair to penalize Americans for failing to buy insurance when the primary sign-up website doesn’t work.
The Democratic dominoes began to fall quickly Wednesday, after Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., circulated a letter urging President Obama to extend enrollment beyond March 31, 2014.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in a statement released late Wednesday, said: “I believe, given the technical issues, it makes sense to extend the time for people to sign up.”
Shaheen and several moderate Democrats supporting her, including Pryor, are up for re-election in 2014, and no doubt taking note of the widespread discontent with the launch of HealthCare.gov.
But political motivation aside, the sudden support from moderate Democrats for delaying the mandate threatens to force President Obama’s hand.
Republicans are already crafting bills to delay the requirement on individuals to buy health insurance. The GOP has the numbers to pass such a proposal in the House; with 15 Democrats, they might be able to muscle something through in the Senate.
Then Obama would have to decide whether to veto.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is not up for election next year, is working on a bill that would delay the IRS penalty for one year for anyone who does not get insurance.
This comes as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., drafts a separate bill to delay the requirement until the system has been certified as working for six straight months.
The White House, while defending the health care law and vowing to fix the problems with the website, has not explicitly ruled out the possibility of delaying the individual mandate. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, also backed Shaheen’s call in a written statement Wednesday.
“I have repeatedly said this law is not perfect and have proposed changes to make it work for Alaska families and small businesses,” he said. “Given the recent website issues, I also support extending open enrollment season. I want to work with the administration to ensure that individuals are not unfairly penalized if technical issues with the website continue.”
Shaheen, in her letter to Obama wrote: “As website glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans. I also fear that people that have tried, and failed, to enroll online may become frustrated and not return to the website to try again at a later date. … Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.”
Other Democrats were less gentle in their complaints.
“The president should man up, let us know who was responsible, who was in charge here and fire them,” Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., said.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said “somebody ought to get fired.”
Ummmm… but I thought it was, like , “the law of the land” or something and obstructionists were committing “sedition” and stuff. In fact, weren’t you you were an “anarchist” / “terrorist” if you wanted to delay it?
Honestly, if I were a vindictive person I’d suggest that Cruz and others who stood strong against Obamacare during the shutdown tell Democrats they could stuff it after everything they said and did in response to Republicans who drew a line in the sand over the so-called “Affordable Care Act.” But I’m so eager to see how this plays out, to see how much back-flipping and flip-flopping Reid, Pelosi, and other Congressional Democrats will do in order to try and placate their liberal colleagues. More importantly, Obama’s soon-to-be carefully crafted response to all this will be especially fascinating to see, considering how he accused Republicans of being like striking workers (aka his unionites) “holding the government hostage” for not backing down on the individual mandate delay.
Phineas Butts In: ST beat me to it, curse that Eastern Time Zone! If you’re interested in my thoughts on this growing avalanche of panic, you’ll find them here.